Fitness, risk factors, and self-perceived stressThe data from the study published in the US journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise shows that a high fitness level offers particularly effective protection for professionals who experience a high degree of stress in the workplace. To obtain this data, the researchers recorded the fitness levels of almost 200 Swedish employees – 51% men, mean age 39 years – using a so-called bicycle ergometer test. In addition, they measured various known cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol, triglycerides and glycated hemoglobin. The participants were then asked to provide information on their current perception of stress.
As expected, the study conducted by the Department of Sport, Exercise and Health at the University of Basel, the Institute of Stress Medicine, and Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg illustrates that stressed individuals exhibit higher values of most cardiovascular risk factors. Furthermore, it was confirmed that cardiovascular fitness is linked to virtually all risk factors, with the risk factors being less high in people who are physically fit.
Clinical cut-offs exceeded in unfit individualsThe researchers demonstrated for the first time that the relationship between the subjective perception of stress and cardiovascular risk factors is moderated, so to speak, by fitness. In other words, among the stressed employees, there were particularly large differences between individuals with a high, medium, and low fitness level.
For example, when stress levels were high, the LDL cholesterol values exceeded the clinically relevant limit in employees with a low fitness level – but not in those with a high fitness level. By contrast, where the exposure to stress was low, far smaller differences were observed between fitness levels.
Promotion of an active lifestyle
Markus Gerber, Mats Börjesson, Thomas Ljung, Magnus Lindwall, and Ingibjörg H. Jonsdottir
Fitness moderates the relationship between stress and cardiovascular risk factors
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (2016), doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001005