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  • Influence of central obesity in estimating maximaloxygen uptakeChristina Grune de Souza e Silva,I,II Barry A. Franklin,III Claudio Gil Soares de AraujoI,II,*I Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Heart Institute Edson Saad and Medical School, Rio de Janeiro/RJ, Brazil. IIExercise Medicine Clinic CLINIMEX, Rio de

    Janeiro/RJ, Brazil. IIIWilliam Beaumont Hospital, Preventive Cardiology and Cardiac Rehabilitation, Royal Oak, MI, USA.

    OBJECTIVE: To assess the influence of central obesity on the magnitude of the error of estimate of maximaloxygen uptake in maximal cycling exercise testing.

    METHOD: A total of 1,715 adults (68% men) between 18-91 years of age underwent cardiopulmonary exercisetesting using a progressive protocol to volitional fatigue. Subjects were stratified by central obesity into threequartile ranges: Q1, Q2-3 and Q4. Maximal oxygen uptake [mL.(kg.min)-1] was estimated by the attainedmaximal workload and body weight using gender- and population-specific equations. The error of estimate[mL.(kg.min)-1] and percent error between measured and estimated maximal oxygen uptake values were com-pared among obesity quartile ranges.

    RESULTS: The error of estimate and percent error differed (mean SD) for men (Q1=1.33.7 and 2.010.4;Q2-3=0.53.1 and -0.513.0; and Q4=-0.32.8 and -4.515.8 (po0.05)) and for women (Q1=1.63.3 and3.610.2; Q2-3=0.42.7 and -0.411.8; and Q4=-0.92.3 and -10.022.7 (po0.05)).CONCLUSION: Central obesity directly influences the magnitude of the error of estimate of maximal oxygenuptake and should be considered when direct expired gas analysis is unavailable.

    KEYWORDS: Cardiorespiratory Fitness; Obesity; Cardiopulmonary Exercise Testing; Aerobic Fitness; BodyComposition.

    de Souza e Silva CG, Franklin BA, Araujo CG. Influence of central obesity in estimating maximal oxygen uptake. Clinics. 2016;71(11):629-634

    Received for publication on March 7, 2016; First review completed on May 11, 2016; Accepted for publication on August 5, 2016

    *Corresponding author. E-mail:


    There is strong evidence that cardiorespiratory fitness isinversely associated with cardiovascular and all-cause mor-tality (1). Cardiorespiratory fitness can be accurately asses-sed by directly measuring maximal oxygen consumption(VO2max) at peak exercise during cardiopulmonary exercisetesting (CPET). However, due to the limited availability ofmetabolic testing resources, VO2max is more commonly esti-mated, rather than directly measured, by applying equationsthat take into consideration the maximal workload achievedor the exercise duration (2,3). Although measured and esti-mated VO2max are strongly associated, the error of estimate(EE) for a given subject tends to be substantial, averaging10-20%, which far exceeds the normal error of other clinicaland laboratory measurements (4).The ability to utilize oxygen to perform work is related to

    an individuals mechanical efficiency (5). Therefore, whenapplying a given equation to estimate VO2max, it is gen-

    erally assumed that all subjects have the same mechanicalefficiency, which is biologically incorrect and likely explainsmost of the EE of VO2max.Among the factors that likely influence mechanical effi-

    ciency, one of the most clinically relevant is body composi-tion, primarily due to the increased prevalence of obesityin recent decades. Obesity and, more particularly, centralobesity may hinder the mobilization of the lower limbs,possibly reducing the mechanical efficiency for activitiessuch as cycling or walking (6); therefore, there may be anincreased EE of VO2max in overweight and obese subjects.Currently, there is very little data available regarding the roleof central obesity as a modulator of the EE of VO2max.Therefore, the current study was performed to determine

    the influence of central obesity, based on the waist to heightratio (WHtR), in the EE of VO2max.


    SampleOur study population included volunteer adult subjects

    in an exercise medicine clinic who initially underwent CPETusing a progressive cycle ergometer protocol betweenJanuary 2008 and June 2014. All patients were evaluatedfor exercise prescription purposes and provided informedconsent. All patients authorized the de-identified use oftheir collected data for research purposes. The study andDOI: 10.6061/clinics/2016(11)02

    Copyright & 2016 CLINICS This is an Open Access article distributed under theterms of the Creative Commons License ( which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in anymedium or format, provided the original work is properly cited.

    No potential conflict of interest was reported.



  • retrospective data analysis were approved by the institu-tional ethics committee. Subjects were excluded based on thefollowing criteria: those who had previously been tested inour clinic, those who were younger than 18 years of age,those who had undergone treadmill testing, and those whodid not fulfill the criteria for a maximal CPET. An addi-tional 100 subjects who had incomplete data were excluded.The final population sample included 1,715 subjects.

    Anthropometric measurementsBody weight was measured to the nearest 0.1 kg while the

    subject was barefoot and wearing light clothing. Height andwaist circumference were obtained to the nearest 0.1 cm. Thelatter was measured in the upright position, at the umbilicuslevel (7), with an anthropometric tape. The WHtR, obtainedby dividing waist circumference by body height, was usedas an index for central obesity, as it is a more reliable andproportional measure of obesity than the waist circumferencealone.

    Maximal cardiopulmonary exercise testingMaximal CPET was conducted using an electromagneti-

    cally braked cycle ergometer (Inbrasport CG-04, Inbrasport,Brazil) and an individualized ramp protocol designed toachieve voluntary exhaustion between 8 and 12 minutes. AllCPET was performed under direct medical supervision in aproperly equipped laboratory. Subject seat height and bodyposition were carefully adjusted on the cycle ergometer toprovide a comfortable cycling movement. The pedaling ratewas maintained between 65 and 75 revolutions per minute.One lead CM5 or CC5 digital ECG continuous monitoring

    (ErgoPC Elite, Micromed, Brazil) was obtained at rest, duringexercise and at 5-minute recovery periods. Resting, exerciseand post-exercise measurements of heart rate (HR) (bpm)and blood pressure (mmHg) were obtained from ECGrecordings and by auscultation of the right brachial artery,respectively.During CPET, subjects expired through a mouthpiece and

    a pneumotachograph Prevent (MedGraphics, United States)with the nose occluded. Ventilatory analysis was accom-plished using a metabolic analyzer VO2000 (MedGraphics,United States) that was calibrated daily. During exercise,expired gases were continuously collected, and the resultswere recorded at 10-second intervals. The data from sixconsecutive 10-second intervals were averaged and reportedfor each minute during CPET. VO2max represents the highestoxygen uptake value obtained, expressed as mL.(kg.min)-1,during CPET.A CPET session was defined as maximum if it was not

    prematurely terminated due to adverse signs/symptomsand if it fulfilled physiological criteria (8). Additionally,measures of perceived exertion were obtained to assesssomatic exhaustion, a score of 10 on the 0-10 Borg scale (9),which was further indicated by the inability to maintain therequired pedal cadence (65-75 rev/min) despite strong ver-bal encouragement. The highest HR attained was not solelyused as the criterion for considering a CPET session as themaximum.

    Predicting maximum VO2 and HRTo better characterize the study sample, VO2max [mL.(kg.

    min)-1] values were predicted by gender-specific equations(10): 60 - 0.55 x age (years) for men and 48 - 0.37 x age (years)

    for women. Maximum values of HR were age-predicted by apreviously validated equation: HR max (bpm) = 208 - 0.7 xage (years) (11).

    Estimating VO2maxVO2max [mL.(kg.min)

    -1] was estimated by the gender-specific equations that were previously validated for asimilar population in our exercise lab as follows: C-MEN =[maximal workload (watts)/weight (kg)] x 10.79 + 7 andC-WOMEN = [maximal workload (watts)/weight (kg)] x9.82 + 7 (12).

    Comparing measured and estimated VO2maxTo compare measured and estimated VO2max, subjects

    were categorized by gender (1,172 men and 543 women) andthen divided into three quartile ranges according to WHtR:Q1, Q2-3 (combining Q2 and Q3) and Q4. For each of thesequartile ranges, VO2max per kg of body weight, EE(measured VO2max - estimated VO2max) in mL.(kg.min)


    and percent error (%E; [(measured VO2max - estimatedVO2max)/measured VO2max] x 100) were calculated forboth men and women. Negative values of EE and %Esignified that the estimated VO2max was higher than themeasured VO2max, that is, the equation overestimatedVO2max.

    Data analysisDescriptive statistics are presented as mean and standard

    deviation or as percent. Demographic characteristics andCPET variables were compared by t-test or chi-square test foreach gender. Pearson product-moment correlation was alsocalculated for measured and estimated VO2max in men andwomen. One-way ANOVAwas used to compare EE and %Eamong the quartile ranges for each gender. Statistical anal-ysis was performed using Prism 6 (GraphPad, USA), with5% probability as the criterion for statistical significance.


    The average age of our subjects (n=1,715) was 5215 years, with men representing 68.3% of the total sample.Considering the entire study population, 20.8% were appar-ently healthy, 17.2% had known coronary artery disease, andthe remaining subjects exhibited diverse clinical conditions,including arterial hypertension, diabetes mellitus, obesity,pulmonary disease, or combinations thereof. Based on bodymass index (BMI), 41.5% and 23.2% of the subjects wereclassified as overweight and obese, respectively, including1.4% of the total sample that was morbidly obese. Regardingprescribed medications, 23.0% of the subjects were takingb-blockers, 34.9% were on angiotensin-converting enzymeinhibitors or angiotensin II receptor antagonists use, and39.8% were using cholesterol-lowering medications.

    As estimated by the WHtR, central obesity was higherin men was higher than in women (0.5650.070 vs. 0.5260.082, po0.01). The WHtR results for each of the quartileranges for men were as follows: Q1=0.378 to 0.515, Q2-3=0.515 to 0.612, and Q4=0.612 to 0.900. The WHtR results foreach one of the quartile ranges for women were as follows:Q1=0.332 to 0.467, Q2-3=0.467 to 0.571, and Q4=0.572 to0.813. Additional demographic and CPET data, with specificreference to progressive WHtR ranges, are presented inTables 1 and 2.


    Obesity and oxygen uptake estimationde Souza e Silva CG et al.

    CLINICS 2016;71(11):629-634

  • Maximal cardiopulmonary exercise testing resultsThe duration of CPET averaged 102 minutes, with 70%

    of all tests lasting between 8 and 12 minutes. The maximumHR, when expressed as a percentage of the age-predictedvalue, was similar for men and women (92.2% vs. 93.0%,respectively, p=0.15). The maximal attained workload washigher for men than for women (17270 vs. 11145 watts,respectively, po0.01). As a group, men achieved a higherVO2max than women (29.410.5 vs. 24.19.0 mL.(kg.min)

    -1,respectively, po0.01). Measured VO2max ranged from 5.8to 73.3 mL.(kg.min)-1 in men and from 4.1 to 60.1 mL.(kg.min)-1 in women. For both genders, these values wereconsistently lower for those classified in the Q4 cohort ofWHtR (21.97.0 the expression for men and 16.65.1 mL.(kg.min)-1 the expression for women, po0.01). Measured

    and estimated values of VO2max were strongly correlated inboth sexes (r=0.95, po0.01). For the Q4 subset, the measuredversus estimated VO2max relationship remained highly significant(r=0.93 and r=0.90 for men and women, respectively) (Figure 1).Measured VO2max tended to be lower than age-predicted

    VO2max, corresponding to 96.626.9% and 81.724.5% formen and women, respectively. Considering only Q4 subjects,measured VO2max corresponded to an even lower percentof age-predicted VO2max in men and women, 80.020.3%and 64.514.4%, respectively.The values of EE were 0.53.2 mL.(kg.min)-1 for men and

    0.42.9 mL.(kg.min)-1 for women (p=0.54). The values of %Ewere 0.913.4% for men and -1.815.8% for women(p=0.20). An analysis of %E for the three WHtR quartileranges revealed a clear trend, with Q1 showing a slight

    Table 1 - Major characteristics and cardiopulmonary exercise testing results according to waist-height ratio ranges (expressed inquartiles) - men (N=1,172)

    Q1 Q2-3 Q4 p value

    N 293 586 293CharacteristicsAge (years) 4514 5514 5814 po0.01Weight (kg) 75.29.0 84.811.0 98.816.4 po0.01Height (cm) 176.76.5* 175.76.7* 173.07.0 po0.01Waist/height ratio 0.4850.024 0.5590.026 0.6580.049 po0.01Predicted VO2max [mL.(kg.min)

    -1] 35.37.9 29.87.6 27.97.4 po0.01Predicted HRmax (bpm) 17710 17010 1679 po0.01b-blocker usage (%) 15.4 25.1 37.9 po0.01CPET ResultsDuration (min) 112 102 92 po0.01HRmax (bpm) 17020 15725 14727 po0.01HRmax measured/predicted (%) 96.29.0 92.611.9 87.313.4 po0.01Maximum workload (Watts) 20874 17065 14159 po0.01Measured VO2max [mL.(kg.min)

    -1] 37.911.0 28.98.4 21.97.0 po0.01Measured/predicted VO2max (%) 109.228.4 98.724.8 80.020.3 po0.01Estimated VO2max [mL.(kg.min)

    -1] 36.69.9 28.47.2 22.25.6 po0.01Error of estimate (EE) [mL.(kg.min)-1] 1.33.7 0.53.1 -0.32.8 po0.01Percent error (%E) 2.010.4# -0.513.0# -4.515.8 po0.01

    *not significant between Q1 and Q2-3 (p=0.15); #p=0.02 between Q1 and Q2-3

    Table 2 - Major characteristics and cardiopulmonary exercise testing results according to waist-height ratio ranges (expressed inquartiles) women (N=543)

    Q1 Q2-3 Q4 p value

    N 136 271 136CharacteristicsAge (years) 4112 5114 6014 po0.01Weight (kg) 57.36.8 65.18.6 80.313.6 po0.01Height (cm) 165.56.4 162.96.1 159.25.9 po0.01Waist/height ratio 0.4350.024 0.5140.031 0.6420.054 po0.01Predicted VO2max [mL.(kg.min)

    -1] 32.74.4 29.35.2 25.75.1 po0.01Predicted HRmax (bpm) 1798 17310 16610 po0.01b-blocker usage (%) 8.8 14.8 28.1 po0.01CPET ResultsDuration (min) 113 92 72 po0.01HRmax (bpm) 17117 16421 14526 po0.01HRmax measured/predicted (%) 95.67.5* 94.810.1* 87.013.1 po0.01Maximum workload (Watts) 13647 11042 8634 po0.01Measured VO2max [mL.(kg.min)

    -1) 31.98.8 24.07.2 16.65.1 po0.01Measured/predicted VO2max (%) 98.027.2 82.121.1 64.514.4 po0.01Estimated VO2max [mL.(kg.min)

    -1] 30.27.2 23.66.0 17.53.7 po0.01Error of estimate (EE) [mL.(kg.min)-1] 1.63.3 0.42.7 -0.92.3 po0.01Percent error (%E) 3.610.2# -0.411.8# -10.022.7 po0.01

    *not significant between Q1 and Q2-3 (p40.99); #p=0.03 between Q1 and Q2-3; p values are for the comparisons among all three groups (Q1, Q2-3 andQ4) using one-way ANOVA


    CLINICS 2016;71(11):629-634 Obesity and oxygen uptake estimationde Souza e Silva CG et al.

  • tendency to underestimate VO2max and Q4 showing astrong tendency to overestimate VO2ma...


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