Objective: To determine the poorly studied relationship between functional aerobic capacity (FAC) as measured by treadmill stress testing and mortality in normal, overweight, and obese patients. Patients and Methods: Patients were identified retrospectively from the stress testing database at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. We selected 5328 male nonsmokers (mean ± SD age, 51.8±11.5 years) without baseline cardiovascular disease who were referred for treadmill exercise testing between January 1, 1986, and December 31, 1991, and classified them by body mass index (BMI) into normal-weight (18.5-24.9 kg/m2), overweight (25.0-29.9 kg/m2), and obese (≥30 kg/m2) categories. Functional aerobic capacity was assessed by maximal exercise test results based on age-and sex-specific metabolic equivalents, and patients were stratified into fitness quintiles. Cox proportional hazards analysis was used to determine the relationship of all-cause mortality to fitness in each BMI category. Results: There were 322 deaths during 14 years of follow-up. After adjustment for age and exercise confounders, FAC predicted mortality in the 3 BMI groups. Hazard ratios for FAC less than 80% of predicted vs a reference group with normal BMI and fitness (FAC ≥100%) were 1.754 (95% CI, 0.874-3.522), 1.962 (1.356-2.837), and 1.518 (1.056-2.182) for the normal, overweight, and obese groups, respectively. The CIs of the hazard ratios overlapped with no statistically significant differences (P≥.05). Conclusion: A significant increase in mortality occurs with FAC below 80% of predicted for overweight and obese subjects and below 70% for normal weight subjects. Our results suggest that clinicians need not adjust the standard for low fitness in obese patients.
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