Relative intensity exercise in older adults associates with the metabolic syndrome

Older adults who did not meet recommended levels of relative intensity physical activity were more likely to present with a clustering of cardiovascular risk factors.


Absolute intensity physical activity leads to largely inadequate assessments of physical activity in the elderly, since many have too low aerobic capacity to reach the thresholds for moderate and vigorous intensity. However, to date absolute intensity physical activity is the only way to measure physical activity in older adults on a population level. PhD candidate Nina Zisko and colleagues at The Norwegian University of Science and Technology have created a new method for measuring relative intensity physical activity in older adults, based on gender, maximum oxygen uptake and accelerometer data.

The metod was validated as a measure of health in a population of 1500 older adults participating in the Generation 100 study. Below recommended levels of relative intensity physical activity were linked to increased odds of having the metabolic syndrome. No such association was found for absolute intensity physical activity. Furhermore, Zisko and colleges have used the method to describe the levels of physical activity in older adults. They have also presented data on objectively measured fitness in the same population.

Another paper in the thesis indicate that healthy, inactive men do not increase their daily energy expenditure following a high-intensity exercise intervention. However, continuous exercise at moderate intensity induced increases in both total and activity energy expenditure. The randomized controlled trial included three groups of men, exercising either at high intensity (4×4-minute intervals or 1×4-minute intervals at 90–95 % of maximum heart rate) or moderate intensity (70 % of maximum heart rate) for six weeks. Although the interval training improved aerobic capacity, it had no effect on the energy expenditure in this small pilot study.


Thesis: Cardiorespiratory fitness, objectively measured physical activity and health
 Nina Zisko
Time and place: March 8, 2017, Norwegian University of Science and Technology


Zisko, N., Stensvold, D., Hordnes-Slagsvold, K., Rognmo, Ø., Nauman, J., Wisløff, U., & Karlsen, T. (2015). Effect of Change in VO2max on Daily Total Energy Expenditure in a Cohort of Norwegian Men: A Randomized Pilot Study. The open cardiovascular medicine journal, 9, 50.

Zisko, N., Carlsen, T., Salvesen, Ø., Aspvik, N. P., Ingebrigtsen, J. E., Wisløff, U., & Stensvold, D. (2015). New relative intensity ambulatory accelerometer thresholds for elderly men and women: the Generation 100 study. BMC geriatrics, 15(1), 97.

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