Being born preterm or small for gestational age predicts low exercise capacity in otherwise healthy young men, a Swedish study found.

Jenny Svedenkrans, MD, of Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, and colleagues conducted a population-based study of 218,820 males entering for military service in 1993-2001 and born in Sweden from 1973-1983. The primary outcome was the results in watts (W) from a maximal exercise test (Wmax) that a conscript could manage on a cycle ergometer.

Preterm birth predicted low Wmax in a dose-response related pattern, with a 25 W reduction in Wmax for the lowest gestational ages (those born after 27 weeks’ gestation or less, the researchers reported in PLoS One (2013;8(12):e80869). Low birth weight for gestational age also independently predicted low Wmax compared with normal and high birth weight (32 W reduction for those with a birth weight standard deviation score below 2).

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