The Treadmill Test
The smart folks at Johns Hopkins University have taken out their calculators and looked at 58,000 people from all stages of life. They figured out that the closer you can come to your maximum heart rate (220- your age) during exercise, the more likely you are to live another ten years. It’s more complicated than that and, like all of these tests, doesn’t tell you as much as the headlines lead you to believe. But how close you can comfortably push yearself and your heart rate it still a useful metric.
It’s easy for doctors to figure out if you have a disease or not but hard to say just how relatively healthy you are. A yes/no diagnosis is good if you’re ill but it doesn’t tell us much about how your overall health compares to good health. This test attempts to give a number – a health score – relating to your relative health with the hope that people with lower numbers can begin to work seriously on their health to improve. No doubt we will soon see the Treadmill Test Diet on the shelves of Barnes and Noble. I Can’t wait! And, yes, I’m being sarcastic.
So how does this work? Say you are twenty. This means that you should be able to achieve a heart rate of 200 bpm (220-20=200) to be in relatively good health (bpm is ‘beats per minute’). That’s a high number and I’m not sure if there is any provision, other than a lower healthy rate, given for age.
You can see how this works: if you’re forty then you should be able to pump up to 180
bpm (220 max. – 40 = 180) during a sprint work out. I need to be right around 160 bpm. In fact, I can achieve a rate at over 170 bpm ‘pretty easily’. (In truth, there’s nothing pretty or easy about it.) This gives me the relative health of a fit fifty year-old.
So, to find your score, begin with 220 and subtract your age. Maybe you already know if you can get your heart comfortably beating that fast. If you don’t know, and haven’t tried in a while, get your doctor’s permission and find a treadmill or a bike or something that ramps your heart rate up and give it a go. You should find out pretty quickly if you can reach the number or not. But, in a sense, who really cares? What if you ‘pass’ the test? Does that mean that you can rest now an live a life of leisure? And what if you can’t reach the number? Then you begin an exercise program meant to build up your heart. And keep at it. In other words, no matter who you are or how old you are, you need to incorporated some level of exercise into your weekly routine.
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