Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Psychological Well-Being Impact Longevity?

Generally speaking, most of us want to not only live a longer life, but a healthier one as well.  There’s no question that genetics themselves play a very important role, so if you’ve chosen your parents carefully, you’re off to a great start.  Other important measures include not smoking, not abusing alcohol and maintaining a healthy diet.

Aside from some of the more obvious measures, what else can you do to ensure that you live a longer healthier life?  Researchers from Sweden published the results of a large prospective study which examined the importance of cardiorespiratory fitness as well as negative and positive emotions on longevity [1] in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

Study Design:

To measure cardiorespiratory fitness, the study investigators used the total time of a symptom limited maximal treadmill exercise test which is a proxy for VO2 max.  VO2 max is a common test taken by athletes since VO2 max measures your body’s ability to transport and utilize oxygen during exercise.  Essentially, it’s a measure of your physical fitness.

The study itself included 4888 participants who were initially examined in 1988 then followed up on for a median period of 15 years.  The intent of this study was to look at factors such as psychological well-being and cardiorespiratory fitness, both independently and as well as their combined effect on survival.

The study authors noted that cardiorespiratory fitness has been one of the strongest predictors of all-cause mortality both in healthy and unhealthy populations.  Recent studies have also started focusing on psychological well-being and its role in survival as well.

Study Results

In short, the study found that both high cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF)  as well as low levels of negative emotions were each independently associated with survival.  In contrast, positive emotions alone were not found to be associated with survival.  These findings were found after the researchers corrected for numerous potential confounding factors such as age, BMI, physical activity, smoking, and alcohol consumption.

Though low levels of negative emotions were associated positively with survival, this effect was not apparent in those who had low to moderate levels of CRF.  When comparing those who had low CRF and high levels of negative emotions with the opposite group, (high CRF, low negative emotions), those in the latter group had a 63% lower risk of all-cause mortality after adjusting for other factors!

One interesting find of this study was that people who have high levels of positive emotions don’t necessarily report low levels of negative emotions and vice verse.  Again, positive emotions were not associated with survival either in this study.

Bottom Line:

[box type=”important”]This research highlights the importance of cardiorespiratory fitness if you want to live a longer healthier life. As well, keeping low levels of negative emotions may be more important to your survival than experiencing positive emotions.[/box]


  1. Am J Prev Med. 2010 Nov;39(5):440-8.

One thought on “Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Psychological Well-Being Impact Longevity?

  • December 21, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    This all kind of makes sense. If you are healthier with a better cardiovascular system, you would have a better chance of recovering from an injury or disease. Likewise, if you have a good positive attitude, you will typically have less stress. Stress only makes things worse. Eliminate it and stay in shape and you will do better and hopefully live longer.


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