Reducing cardiovascular disease risk factors with a physical fitness program

Open Access
Jones, Justin Laird
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
June 18, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Jinger Gottschall, Thesis Advisor
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • risk factors
  • physical fitness
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, as 32.8% of deaths are due to coronary heart disease, stroke, and heart failure. Developing cardiovascular disease is heightened with the onset of risk factors such as hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity. Unfortunately, the current health status of adult Americans details an alarming occurrence of risk factors as 30.0% of adults have high blood pressure, 26.7% have high blood cholesterol, 10.4% have type II diabetes, and 35.7% are obese. Fortunately, engaging in regular physical activity can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The American College of Sports Medicine and the United States Department of Health and Human Services established the Physical Activity Guidelines for Fitness to provide a recipe for the time, frequency, and intensity of exercise. The current thesis will demonstrate the beneficial effects of meeting the guidelines as well as detailing methods to complete the standards. For the first study of the thesis, I implemented the Physical Activity Guidelines for Fitness into a 30-week multi-modal intervention to evaluate how a multi-modal program influences cardiovascular disease risk factors. I hypothesized that the group fitness program would produce beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease risk factors by decreasing body weight, fat body mass, total cholesterol concentration, triglycerides concentration, blood pressure, and also by increasing lean body mass and HDL-C concentration. In the second study, I investigated heart rate intensity in order to determine whether moderate- or vigorous-intensity activity has a greater effect on the reduction of body mass. I hypothesized that there would be a greater reduction in body mass when a higher percentage of time during the workout is spent in vigorous-intensity. For the third and final study, I evaluated how to incorporate moderate- and vigorous-intensity hill intervals into treadmill walking workouts in order to maximize metabolic cost. I hypothesized that continuous hill intervals and random hill intervals would result in the same metabolic cost in a 20-minute treadmill workout. This thesis will provide evidence about strategies to both meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Fitness and reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors.