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Can a Treadmill Workout Predict Your Life Expectancy?

March 03, 2015

Whoever thought a treadmill could be so telling?

A team of cardiologists at Johns Hopkins University say they have discovered a way to predict your risk of dying over a 10-year period based on your performance on a treadmill.

Research details

Their report is published in the March 2 issue of the Journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Analyzing data from 58,000 heart stress tests, they have developed a formula that estimates one’s risk of dying over a decade based on a person’s ability to exercise on a treadmill at an increasing speed and incline, all while monitoring their heart rate and metabolism.

The doctors developed what they call the FIT Treadmill Score, which can gauge long-term death risk in anyone based solely on treadmill exercise performance. The score could yield valuable clues about a person’s health and should be calculated for the millions of patients who undergo cardiac stress testing in the U.S. each year, say researchers.

Taking action

But, do people really want to know about their possible demise?

Some may say ‘no,’ but for others, “knowing their results could inspire them and put them on track to lead a healthier lifestyle,” said Baystate Medical Center preventive cardiologist Dr. Quinn Pack of the Heart & Vascular Program.

“Exercise training can certainly improve your exercise capacity and heart rate response to exercise, the two key predictors of mortality used in this treadmill score,” he said. “It is never too late to start an exercise program. I recommend this regularly to my patients, both young and old.”

According to Dr. Pack, it is well known that exercise is good for the healthy heart, but doctors learned recently that exercise is also good for the injured heart or even the failing heart.

“Having had an old heart attack or having heart failure is one of the clearest reasons to start an exercise program after an evaluation with your physician. A safe place to begin exercise training is in cardiac rehabilitation programs like we offer here at Baystate Medical Center, where we regularly see improvement in exercise capacity and heart rate response to exercise,” said the Baystate cardiologist.

He noted even more recent data suggests that interval training (a form of high intensity exercise) is effective and safe after having a heart attack.