How Old Is Your Body, Really?

Photographed by Molly Cranna.
There might be a difference between the age on your ID card and the age of your body. Last year, researchers developed a "fitness age" test that predicts your VO2 max (how your body takes in and uses oxygen during exercise, a process that is typically seen as a marker of cardiovascular endurance), without requiring you to run on a treadmill — or do any actual exercise pre-test.
Now, the test is in the news again, as the same researchers look at why, exactly, your "fitness age" matters. The New York Times reports that a prospective cohort study (published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise earlier this year) looked at data collected from more than 55,000 Norwegians and found a link between fitness level and longevity. Participants with an average or above-average VO2 max (meaning their fitness age is younger than their chronological age), had a lower risk of premature death. The researchers believe that cardiorespiratory fitness is a useful tool for identifying risk of cardiovascular disease.
Taking these findings into account, the team updated their online “fitness age” calculator to include cardiovascular disease risk; try it for yourself here. And, while you can't decrease the number of candles on your cake, you can decrease your “fitness age” by exercising regularly and incorporating more high-intensity intervals. Happy fit-birthday to you, and may the spandex presents never end.

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