Af Geijerstam A, Mehlig K, Börjesson M, Robertson J, Nyberg J, Adiels M, Rosengren A, Åberg M, Lissner L
BMJ Open 11 (7) e051316 [2021-07-05; online 2021-07-05]
To investigate the possible connection between cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) and muscle strength in early adulthood and severity of COVID-19 later in life. Prospective registry-based cohort study. 1 559 187 Swedish men, undergoing military conscription between 1968 and 2005 at a mean age of 18.3 (SD 0.73) years. Hospitalisation, intensive care or death due to COVID-19 from March to September 2020, in relation to CRF and muscle strength. High CRF in late adolescence and early adulthood had a protective association with severe COVID-19 later in life with OR (95% CI) 0.76 (0.67 to 0.85) for hospitalisation (n=2 006), 0.61 (0.48 to 0.78) for intensive care (n=445) and 0.56 (0.37 to 0.85) for mortality (n=149), compared with the lowest category of CRF. The association remains unchanged when controlled for body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, chronic diseases and parental education level at baseline, and incident cardiovascular disease before 2020. Moreover, lower muscle strength in late adolescence showed a linear association with a higher risk of all three outcomes when controlled for BMI and height. Physical fitness at a young age is associated with severity of COVID-19 many years later. This underscores the necessity to increase the general physical fitness of the population to offer protection against future viral pandemics.