Running test reveals whether you will die in the next decade

The simple test only requires a treadmill
The simple test only requires a treadmill

A SIMPLE new test carried out on a treadmill could tell you how likely you are to live for another decade.

Dubbed the FIT Treadmill Score, the cheap and simple test involves a formula which considers a person's ability to exercise on a treadmill at an increasing speed and incline.

While past exercise stress tests measured the short-term risk of dying among patients with heart disease or clear signs of cardiovascular problems, the new algorithm can gauge the long-term risk of death.

The formula works by factoring in age, gender, and peak hear rate reached during intense exercise and the ability to withstand physical exertion. These as measured against so-called metabolic equivalents (METs) which gauge how much energy the body expends during exercise.

The more vigorous the activity, the higher the amount of METs required. For example, an activity such as slow walking equals two METs, compared with eight for running.

To make their findings, the team analysed information on 58,020 people, ages 18 to 96, from Detroit, Michigan, who underwent standard exercise stress tests between 1991 and 2009 for evaluation of chest pain, shortness of breath, fainting or dizziness.

The researchers then tracked how many of the participants within each fitness level died from any cause over the next decade, and found that among people of the same age and gender, fitness level as measured by METs and peak heart rate reached during exercise were the greatest indicators of death risk.

Fitness level was the single most powerful predictor of death and survival, even after researchers accounted for other important variables such as diabetes and family history of premature death.

The researchers believe this finding highlights  the importance of heart and lung fitness.

Senior study author Michael Blaha, director of clinical research at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, said the test is "easy to calculate" and "costs nothing beyond the cost of the treadmill test itself."

"We hope that illustrating risk that way could become a catalyst for patients to increase exercise and improve cardiovascular fitness," Blaha said.

How to take the test

Researchers developed the following formula:

(12 x METs) + (% of maximum predicted heart rate) - (4 x age) + 43 if female.

Maximum predicted heart rate is calculated as 220 - age. Heart rate achieved during exercise should be divided by maximum predicted. For example, if you are 20 years old, your maximum predicted heart rate is 200 (220 - 20). If you achieve 180, you achieved 90 percent of maximum.

Scores range from -200 to 200. Those who hit above 0 have a lower mortality risk, while those in the negative range face the highest risk of dying.

Meanwhile, patients who scored 100 or higher had a 2 percent risk of dying over the next 10 years, while those with scores between 0 and 100 faced a 3 percent death risk over the next decade.

Topics:  death fitness health running science

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