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Should we buy into finding out our Fitness Age?

Should we buy into finding out our Fitness Age?

If you’ve ever been online to find out what your “fitness age” is, you may be fairly dismayed – terrified even - at the results. To get a reading of “younger than 20”, you have to be working as hard as Bradley Wiggins and other super-fit sporting legends.

How seriously should we take the results though? There does seem to be an inherent flaw in the tool. If, like most people, your exercise levels fluctuate from week to week, does this mean your fitness age is going up and down on a weekly basis?

So can we really rely on this new online tool, which calculates fitness age with simple information including the intensity and regularity of your exercise, or is it a bit of fun? Or just a gimmick? 

The new tool can tell you whether you’re old for your years, or whether you’re super fit, by simply inputting your exercise level, waist measurement, resting heart rate, sex and age, the site can calculate how well your body delivers oxygen to the cells. What’s being measured here is something that is known as your VO2max.  

Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology have now discovered that these five measurements can predict someone’s VO2 max quite accurately.

Your fitness age may be quite different to your actual age – some with pleasing results, and others that can be quite terrifying. For example a 40-something-year-old woman who is moderately overweight with a sedentary lifestyle could have a fitness age of 54. Not something you necessarily want to hear.

What concerns me is that we are becoming too dependent on gadgets and technology to tell us how fit we are and what weight we should be. For me, as long as I feel healthy and I’m happy with my weight, then that’s enough. For some, winning contests and being the best at their sport is the best gauge. But this new online tool can panic people fairly easily.

The truth is people know already if they need to do more exercise, and I’m not sure this online calculator is going to be the reason they change their lifestyles. Often health issues can be the prompt for someone to do something about a sedentary lifestyle, but otherwise they need to be encouraged to do more, not scared into it.

According to the researchers who came up with the fitness age tool, fitness age is basically how well the body functions physically – compared to how well it should work – given the person’s age.

It is also a strong indication of lifespan, and gives people a rough estimate of cardiorespiratory fitness. The research has been published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 

So how do you go about calculate your fitness age? The two most important things you’ll need are your waist circumference in centimetres and your resting heart rate.

This can be calculated by taking your pulse for 30 seconds and then doubling it. Add in your age, gender, intensity and frequency of exercise and the calculator will generate your fitness age.

So what do we do when we’ve found out our fate? Well I think the answer would be to make sure you don’t lead a sedentary lifestyle, eat well and keep your weight down. We know the answers already. Going regularly to the gym is far more important that we ever thought, as our fitness right now dictates our future and the kinds of problems we may encounter with illness and diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes – all which have links to weight and lifestyle.

I imagine those who are interested in health and fitness will relish using this new tool as they will be guaranteed a good result if they do enough physical activity. But for those leading sedentary lifestyles, with no interest in doing any exercise or leading a healthy lifestyle, well they won’t even look at this tool will they?

Unless this is something that doctors feel will colour their prescriptions and give sway to convincing people to exercise harder, this may well just be another tool for the sake of it. It you know your BMI and how many minutes you average per running mile, then I’m sure you will be interested to find out your “fitness age”, but beyond that I don’t think too many people will be doing this – for fear of uncovering a rather scary truth.

If nothing else, this online calculator might inspire you to do that little bit more, which can only be a good thing. It may even shame you into embarking on a full-blown fitness regime and then who knows – maybe one day you’ll be in the same league as Wiggo.