The Treadmill Test – Will You Live Another Ten Years?

The Treadmill Test

The smart folks at Johns Hopkins sharpened their pencils to look at 58,000 exercising people from all stages of life. They got out their calculators and figured out that the closer you can come to your maximum heart rate (220 minus your age) during exercise, the more likely you are to live another ten years. It’s complicated and, like all these tests, doesn’t reveal as much as headlines lead you to believe. But it’s still a useful metric.

Figuring out if you have a disease is comparatively easy for doctors, but it’s hard to say just how healthy you are. Ask your doctor if you have shingles, and they can tell you yea or nae in about three minutes. Ask how healthy they think you, are and there will be more hemming and hawing. This treadmill test attempts to give a number – a health score, if you will – relating to your relative health hoping that people with lower numbers can begin improving their health.  No doubt we will soon see the Treadmill Test Diet on the shelves of Barnes and Noble.

So how does this work? Say you’re twenty. You should be able to ramp up to a heart rate of 200 bpm (220-20=200) if you’re in good health (bpm is ‘beats per minute’). If you’re dying – figuratively and not literally – at 160, then you appear to have the cardiovascular system of a sixty-year-old. I should max at about 160 bpm, and that’s a tough number for me. Before my accident, I could cruise at 170 bpm but now have to push hard to hit 150.

I don’t know how this finding intersects with other health metrics, but my guess is that people who are relatively heart healthy watch their health in many ways. For more on health and aging, I recommend Dr. Weil’s book, Healthy Aging. He doesn’t include a special emulsion of panda poo or any other exotic elixir – just sensible science, movement, and healthy eating. Check it out!

Read the headline news version of the treadmill test here from ABC.
Johns Hopkins Medical gives a more measured write up here.

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