Race may play a part in determining a client’s obesity and fitness levels, according to a study in the December issue of CHEST (2004; 126, 1962–68). African-American participants weighed more and had a lower exercise capacity than Caucasians. The most explicit difference was found among males.

The researchers wanted to determine whether race was an independent predictor of fitness. Therefore, they compared obesity status and exercise capacity among 4,428 Caucasian and 641 African-American men and women, ages 52–74 years. All had been referred for an exercise stress test to detect coronary artery disease (CAD). A standard treadmill test helped determine exercise capacity. The research team used BMI to ascertain obesity status.

Exercise capacity was 7% lower in African Americans than in Caucasians. Compared with their Caucasian counterparts, African-American men were, on average, 3 years younger, had higher baseline BMIs and were more likely to be obese or severely obese. African-American women were, on average, 4 years younger, had considerably higher BMIs and were significantly heavier. Overall, Caucasian race, younger age, male gender and a lower BMI were all independent predictors of higher exercise capacity. The prevalence and severity of CAD were similar in both races.