University of Oulu

Dylan M. Williams, Jessica L. Buxton, Marko T. Kantomaa, Tuija H. Tammelin, Alexandra I. F. Blakemore, Marjo-Riitta Järvelin; Associations of Leukocyte Telomere Length With Aerobic and Muscular Fitness in Young Adults. Am J Epidemiol 2017; 185 (7): 529-537. doi: 10.1093/aje/kww123

Associations of leukocyte telomere length with aerobic and muscular fitness in young adults

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Author: Williams, Dylan M.1,2; Buxton, Jessica L.3; Kantomaa, Marko T.2;
Organizations: 1Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
2Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom
3Centre for Cardiovascular Genetics, Institute of Cardiovascular Science, University College London, London, United Kingdom
4LIKES–Research Center for Physical Activity and Health, Jyväskylä, Finland
5Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom
6MRC-PHE Centre for Environment and Health, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom
7Center for Life-Course Health Research, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
8Biocenter Oulu, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
9Unit of Primary Care, Oulu University Hospital, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Oxford University Press, 2017
Publish Date: 2017-07-04


Decline in both telomere length and physical fitness over the life course may contribute to increased risk of several chronic diseases. The relationship between telomere length and aerobic and muscular fitness is not well characterized. We examined whether there are cross-sectional associations of mean relative leukocyte telomere length (LTL) with objective measures of aerobic fitness, muscle strength, and muscle endurance, using data on 31-year-old participants of the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 (n = 4,952–5,205, varying by exposure-outcome analysis). Aerobic fitness was assessed by means of heart rate measurement following a standardized submaximal step test; muscular fitness was assessed by means of a maximal isometric handgrip strength test and a test of lower-back trunk muscle endurance. Longer LTL was associated with higher aerobic fitness and better trunk muscle endurance in models including adjustment for age, sex, body mass index, socioeconomic position, diet, smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity level, and C-reactive protein. In a sex-stratified analysis, LTL was not associated with handgrip strength in either men or women. LTL may relate to aspects of physical fitness in young adulthood, but replication of these findings is required, along with further studies to help assess directions and causality in these associations.

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Series: American journal of epidemiology
ISSN: 0002-9262
ISSN-E: 0002-9262
ISSN-L: 0002-9262
Volume: 185
Issue: 7
Pages: 529 - 537
DOI: 10.1093/aje/kww123
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3142 Public health care science, environmental and occupational health
Funding: This work was supported financially by the following institutions: the Academy of Finland (grants 104781, 120315, 129269, 1114194, and 12926); University Hospital Oulu, Biocenter, University of Oulu (grant 75617); the European Commission (grant QLG1-CT-2000-01643); the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, US National Institutes of Health (grant 5R01HL087679-02); the National Institute of Mental Health, US National Institutes of Health (grant 5R01MH63706:02); the Medical Research Council, United Kingdom (grants G0500539 and G0600705); the Wellcome Trust, United Kingdom (grant GR069224); and Diabetes UK (grant 08/0003775). J.L.B. was supported by a Wellcome Trust Fellowship (grant WT088431MA). D.M.W. and M.R.J. were supported by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement DynaHEALTH (grant 633595).
EU Grant Number: (633595) DYNAHEALTH - Understanding the dynamic determinants of glucose homeostasis and social capability to promote Healthy and active aging
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 129269
Detailed Information: 129269 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
114194 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Dataset Reference: Supplementary data
Copyright information: © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.