Last updated on February 6, 2019
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. The longevity nuts among them figured out that the closer you can come to your maximum heart rate 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 yourself and your heart rate is still a useful metric.
Your Healthy Heart Rate
To calculate your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220 beats per minute. So, for me, I subtract 60 from 220 for a maximum rate of 160 beats per minute during exercise. Note that you don’t have to exercise at length at this rate but can you come close to it? Personally, I can achieve a rate at over 170 bpm ‘pretty easily’. In truth, there’s nothing pretty or easy about it. This means that statistically I should live for another ten years. What it really means is that my heart and blood vessels and my ability to take up oxygen are all working. That’s a good thing. It’s a bad day when we can’t take up oxygen.
It’s easy for doctors to figure out if you have a disease 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.
A Healthy Lifestyle
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 do some kind of exercise that ramps your heart rate up and give it a go. You will 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 and live a life of ice-cream eating 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 incorporate some level of exercise into your weekly routine.
Read the headline news version here from ABC.
Johns Hopkins Medical with a more measured write up here.
No treadmill? Read here about my sprinting workout. Hardest I do!
Read my Peloton bicycle review here.
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