Training for Old Age: Production Functions for the Aerobic Exercise Inputs

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Purpose: This paper attempts to develop production functions (PF) between aerobic exercise inputs and long-run health outputs. Future studies could use such PF for estimating the benefits and costs (broadly defined) of different exercise programs to help develop optimal (utility maximizing) ones.

Methods: To develop the PF, the paper reviewed the biomedical literature for the major dose-response relations between health, physical fitness, and exercise. Where relevant, the paper converted the dose-response relationships from relative risks to absolute probabilities and standardized terminology and units of measures.

Results: The paper develops a clear set of biological PF that illustrate, quantitatively, how increases in peak cardiorespiratory (CR) fitness as measured by a short stress test reduce the probability of all-cause mortality; how increasing intensities of short (approximately 30 min, three to five times a week) exercise sessions increase peak CR fitness or retard its age-related decline; and how consistent exercise reduces the risk of myocardial infarctions (MI).

Conclusions: The exercise-long-run health PF developed in this paper should provide a useful framework for other studies to estimate the broadly defined costs and benefits of different exercise programs and to help develop optimal ones.