Returning to the gym after a long break can make your body feel older than it really is, but it turns out this isn’t just in your head. You can have a “fitness age” that greatly differs from your actual age. It can predict longevity perhaps even better than your chronological age can, and can give you a sense of how well your body is running. But, what exactly is a fitness age and how do you find out what yours is?
What is a fitness age?
Health researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology are behind this concept. The university’s Cardiac Exercise Research Group (CERG) has spent years researching physical activity and how it relates to lifespan, and have found that a person’s fitness age is an important marker of health. Unlike your actual age, it is largely determined by your VO2 max– a measurement that determines how well your body uses oxygen. Also, let’s abbreviate it and call it “F.A.”, okay?
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How is a fitness age calculated?
Calculating your precise F.A. requires “specific equipment, personnel, time, and knowledge,” making it largely inaccessible for most folks. That’s why the CERG researchers made calculating your approximate F.A. easy and doable from the comfort of your couch. They developed a Fitness Calculator that determines your VO2 max based on an algorithm that uses individual information including age, weight, gender, resting heart rate, and physical activity level. Once you input all your data, the Fitness Calculator will give you an estimated F.A. It also will let you know if your F.A. is on par with others in your age bracket.
What does your fitness age mean?
If your F.A. is higher than your actual age, it may be a good time to look at some of your lifestyle habits and see where you can make improvements. Your F.A. can help predict your risk of heart disease and longevity, among other things. The Norwegian team behind fitness age research published a study in 2014 that found those with F.A.’s higher than their actual age had an increased risk of dying prematurely compared to those with a F.A. lower or on par with their actual age.
How can you improve your fitness age?
To improve your F.A., you can focus on exercises that help increase your VO2 max. Aerobic exercise like running, rowing, biking, or anything where you get your heart rate up for a sustained duration, are typically the best ways to test just how much oxygen you can use. Additionally, by improving your lifestyle habits, you can also improve your F.A. By eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and managing stress levels, you can ensure your body is running at its best.
Bottom line is, understanding your fitness age can give you a sense of how well your body is running. By focusing on exercises that increase your VO2 max, and improving your lifestyle habits, you can improve your fitness age and ensure a better quality of life.
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