How to calculate your fitness age

VO2max can be used to predict a person’s risk of premature death from a heart attack. Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology have developed an easy way to estimate a person’s VO2max, their maximal ability to take in and use oxygen (Med Sci Sports Exerc 2011 Nov;43(11):2024-30).

Researchers had 4,637 healthy adults with an average age of nearly 50 run to exhaustion on a treadmill and measured their VO2max (a complex test that measures oxygen and carbon dioxide concentrations). They then developed a formula that correlated very well with subjects’ actual VO2max, based on their

* gender and age,
* exercise habits,
* heart rate at rest and
* waist measurement.

VO2max predicts fitness age

Now researchers have calculated the average VO2 max for a healthy person at any age from 20 to 90 and used those numbers to calculate a fitness age, which predicts how long a person is expected to live. Their fitness calculator is available (free) at
Enter your answers to the simple questions: How often do you exercise? How long? How hard? your age? Waist? Heart rate at rest?
The calculator quickly gives you your approximate VO2max and your fit age.

How did we adults do

Gabe at 78 had a waist circumference of 81cm and a resting heart rate of 48. His estimated VO2max was 50 and his fit age was 35.
Diana, age 71, had a 65 cm abdominal circumference and a resting heart rate of 50. Her estimated VO2max was 50 and her fitness age was 23.
Here is our training program: we train every day for two to three hours. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays we race a 25 mile tandem bike. For the remaining four days, Gabe does 30-second intervals with two minutes of recovery until his legs start to stiffen. Diana makes a longer journey with several intervals. We still bike an average of 150 miles a week and use our home weight machine every day.

Vigorous exercise slows aging

Studies from around the world show that intense exercise keeps you in good shape. People who don’t exercise lose 15 percent of their fitness per decade, those who exercise at a low intensity lose nine percent, while those who exercise intensely lose almost no shape at all.

Increasing the intensity makes you healthier. If you go out and run the same two miles at the same pace every day, you won’t improve and you won’t get very fit. However, if you walk faster one day, feel sore the next day, walk slowly until the pain is gone, and then go fast again, you’ll get fitter on every measure of fitness and also perform better on the tests that measure aging.

However, with increased intensity comes the risk of injury. Before you begin an intense exercise program and before you begin to lift heavier weights, run faster, jump higher, throw farther, hit a tennis ball harder, or do anything that requires increased intensity, consult your doctor. The only problem with this recommendation is that there’s a huge possibility that your doctor doesn’t know much about sports, exercise or fitness. But you should at least check with him or her to see if you have any condition that might be made worse by heavy exercise.

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Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and longtime radio host Gabe Mirkin, MD, brings you news and tips for your healthy lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is one of the few physicians board-certified in four specialties: sports medicine, allergy and immunology, pediatrics, and pediatric immunology.

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