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How to calculate your 'fitness age'

Best Health logo Best Health 2015-07-07 Jennifer Goldberg
Unlike your real age, your fitness age can actually decrease. Here's how it can help predict your health © Provided by Best Health Unlike your real age, your fitness age can actually decrease. Here's how it can help predict your health

I'm 35 years old, but in fitness years, I'm 31. That's according to this calculator, developed by researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, that uses an algorithm to measure your cardiovascular capacity during exercise. And you don't even have to get off the couch to do it.

To create the calculator, researchers evaluated the fitness of almost 5,000 Norwegians by measuring how well their bodies used oxygen during cardiovascular exercise. This measurement is called VO2max, and it's an important indicator of cardiac health and aerobic endurance. It could even predict longevity ' the higher your VO2max, the better your cardiovascular health and the lower your risk of dying young from cardiac disease.

With the data they collected, the researchers established a set of markers (such as chronological age, location, gender, ethnicity, education, body weight, amount and intensity of weekly exercise, waistline measurement, maximum heart rate and resting heart rate) that could be used to determine a person's 'fitness age' without having to actually measure their physical activity. Enter those markers into the calculator and'voila!'you have your fitness age.

Dr. Pamela Peeke, an assistant clinical professor of medicine and the University of Maryland, was so impressed by the calculator that she teamed with the Norwegian study's lead researcher to apply the fitness age test to participants in the National Senior Games, a U.S. sports competition for athletes age 50+. The results: the average age of the participants was 68, but the average fitness age was 43.

In a Facebook post accompanying a New York Times article on the Senior Games Study, Peeke notes that many of the athletes they measured didn't start training until later in life. 'Here's the cool thing: Your real age marches on, but you can continue to decrease your fitness age to a place that works for you,' she writes. 'Absolutely anyone benefits from assuming the vertical and staying more physically active every day.'

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