The first “fitness calculator” I learned about was Dr. Oz’s Real Age. It became popular several years ago. Real Age is an online calculator that is based on the results of answering questions about 125 factors related to a person’s overall health, including health, feelings, diet, and fitness ( i.e., How often you eat fish versus red meat to exercise and sleep habits, asthma, smoking, aspirin use, cancer history, parental longevity, and conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.). I took it once but didn’t get too worked up over using it more than once, even though my ” real age” was about 10 years younger than my actual age.
Now there appears to be a much briefer method of determining your relative fitness that is based on just 5 factors.
This 2013 study, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, reveals a more efficient, low-tech means of precisely assessing how well your body functions physically. It culminated in each of the 5,000 participants in taking a treadmill test assessing peak oxygen intake (VO2 max), or how well the body delivers oxygen to its cells. From the study, “VO2 max has been shown in large-scale studies to closely correlate with significantly augmented life spans, even among the elderly or overweight. In other words, VO2 max can indicate fitness age.”
The real value of this study is it’s apparent ability to establish one’s own VO2 max without the cost and inconvenience of paying for the medical procedure. The researchers found that just five measurements — waist circumference; resting heart rate; frequency and intensity of exercise; age; and sex — into an algorithm allowed them to predict a person’s VO2 max with noteworthy accuracy, according to their study, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise
The researchers have used all of this data to create a free online calculator that allows you to determine your VO2 max without going to a lab. All you need to establish is your waist measurement and your resting heart rate. You plug these numbers, along with your age, sex and frequency and intensity of exercise, into the calculator, and you’ll learn your fitness age.
From the NYTime article, “The results can be sobering. A 50-year-old man, for instance, who exercises moderately a few times a week, sports a 36-inch waist and a resting heart rate of 75 — not atypical values for healthy middle-aged men — will have a fitness age of 59. Thankfully, unwanted fitness years, unlike the chronological kind, can be erased, Dr. Wisloff says. Exercise more frequently or more intensely. Then replug your numbers and exult as your “age” declines. A youthful fitness age, Dr. Wisloff says, ‘is the single best predictor of current and future health’.”
I have been recording my heart rate on a daily basis for the past two months with an iPhone app called Cardiio .
While there are manual methods that don’t rely on a watch, the program’s charting features give you the ability to aggregate and share data. I sent the summary results to my doctor, as I am concerned about my occasional heart rate drops into the high 30’s. While heart rate is one of the five measurements in the Norwegian study that drove my “fitness age” to 38, I want to stick around to enjoy my fitness.
She referred me to a local sport-aware cardiologist for a screening after my own office EKG results were normal. I’ll keep you posted, but in the meantime, I’m going to try and drop another inch off my waist line, continue hammering the backpacking and bicycling, and doing my TM twice daily, which I feel has resulted in a decreased resting heart rate after practicing it twice daily for 42 years.
What’s Your ‘Fitness Age’?. <<- click here for full New York Times article.