Importance of Assessing Cardiorespiratory Fitness in Clinical Practice: A Case for Fitness as a Clinical Vital Sign

A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association

Robert Ross, PhD, FAHA,
Steven N. Blair, PED, FAHA,
Ross Arena, PhD, PT, FAHA   et al.

Mounting evidence has firmly established that low levels
of cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) are associated with a high risk of
cardiovascular disease, all-cause mortality, and mortality rates attributable
to various cancers. A growing body of epidemiological and clinical evidence
demonstrates not only that CRF is a potentially stronger predictor of
mortality than established risk factors such as smoking, hypertension,
high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes mellitus, but that the addition of
CRF to traditional risk factors significantly improves the reclassification
of risk for adverse outcomes. The purpose of this statement is to review
current knowledge related to the association between CRF and health
outcomes, increase awareness of the added value of CRF to improve
risk prediction, and suggest future directions in research. Although the
statement is not intended to be a comprehensive review, critical references
that address important advances in the field are highlighted. The underlying
premise of this statement is that the addition of CRF for risk classification
presents health professionals with unique opportunities to improve patient
management and to encourage lifestyle-based strategies designed to
reduce cardiovascular risk. These opportunities must be realized to
optimize the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease and hence
meet the American Heart Association’s 2020 goals.