How fit can you get? These blood proteins hold a clue

Nature
People running on treadmills.

A suite of proteins in the blood could one day predict how much cardiovascular benefit a person will gain from a strenuous workout regime. Credit: Lars Baron/Getty

Metabolism

How fit can you get? These blood proteins hold a clue

Scientists pinpoint almost 150 biomarkers linked to intrinsic cardiovascular fitness, and 100 linked to fitness gained from training.

A person’s fitness could one day be assessed by looking at a suite of telltale blood proteins — which could also predict the fitness the person could gain from working out.

As a step towards mapping fitness biomarkers, Robert Gerszten at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, and his colleagues sampled blood from more than 650 sedentary adults. The team also measured participants’ maximum oxygen intake — an indicator of cardiometabolic health — before and after a 20-week exercise programme.

Analysis of some 5,000 blood proteins identified 147 linked with baseline oxygen-intake levels and 102 linked with improvements to oxygen intake after the exercise programme. The proteins that were associated with fitness included enzymes that break down sugar and are known to surge in the blood after exercise; proteins linked to bone-building; and some with unknown relevance to exercise physiology.

With better knowledge, the proteins that indicate the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity could serve as biomarkers for a person’s fitness and future health risks, the authors say.

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