You know your biological age, and maybe also your emotional age (wiser beyond your years? young at heart? Or just the age you’re supposed to be? All are good!). But do you know your fitness age? Depending on your fitness level, you can be “younger” or “older” than what your birth certificate would say.
Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology have determined a new, low-tech way to approximate your VO2 Max (maximum oxygen intake), with the idea that this is the best measure of your physical fitness. Usually, VO2 can be measured through a test at a lab. But by measuring various metrics of a sample group of 5,000, the scientists found that just five factors can predict your VO2 with reliability: waist circumference; resting heart rate; frequency and intensity of exercise; biological age; and gender. Using these findings, they have come up with an online calculator that lets you see your fitness age without so much as strapping on a heart rate arm band. In other words, if your biological age is 40 have the average VO2 max of a 25-year-old, your fitness age is 25!
Since I’ve long been curious about my VO2 Max, this was a great chance to see where I stand. According to the calculator, my VO2 Max is 48–and my fitness age is, somewhat surprisingly, “younger than 20.” I’m a little surprised, but I do think I’ve gotten stronger and fitter since my teens. Even though the result was better than I expected, this was a sobering reminder that I am directly responsible for maintaining youth and health. When I see celebs who are several years older than me but look my age, if not younger (I’m looking at you, Giselle) I tend to attribute it just to their unfairly amazing genes. But while we may not be able to do anything about getting mile-long legs or perfect hair, we can do something about our fitness age.
To increase your VO2 Max (and get younger), make sure you train often and intensely. Focus on reducing the dreaded fat around your middle by reducing the amount of fat, processed carbs, and sugar, and adding high intensity interval training to your routine.
Photo: Ed Uthman