aging · fitness

What Is Your Fitness Age?

Banner from the World Fitness Level website, where you can find the online fitness age calculator.
Banner from the World Fitness Level website, where you can find the online fitness age calculator.

I love this idea of our age versus our “fitness age.” In this fascinating article, CBC news reports that older athletes age in fitness terms is “astounding.” The news is this:

Super-fit participants in the National Senior Games show a fitness age up to 25 years younger than their chronological age thanks to their cardiovascular health, says a U.S. doctor who took to Facebook with the findings to inspire people of all abilities.

Imagine being 25 years younger than your chronological age in fitness terms. It’s kind of amazing and something to aspire to.

You can use this on-line calculator to calculate your fitness age. The results might surprise you. The average age of participants in the Senior Games is 68. But the average fitness age of the participants is 43.

Dr. Pamela Peeke, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland who started running at age 40, is a triathlete involved in the Games, which start Friday in Minnesota.

Fellow researcher Ulrik Wisloff at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim designed the calculator and has published research based on findings in Norwegians. When Peeke learned of the calculator, she jumped at the opportunity to collaborate with Wisloff on another group: competitors at the National Senior Games.

What does the on-line calculator do?

The online calculator asks people to provide information such as their age, city, ethnicity, how often they work out and how hard, as well as resting and maximum heart rates to estimate cardiovascular fitness level or “fitness age.”

The good news is that embarking on a fitness program can, in a very real sense, make us younger. It’s hard not to be intrigued by the calculator. I plugged in my info: all sorts of data from my age, sex, and highest level of education to my maximum and resting heart rates.

According to the fitness calculator, depending on how much I exert myself, my fitness comes in at the fitness of an average “under 20 year old” or an average 29 year old. I actually don’t think they have nuanced enough choices for exertion, because “little hard breathing or sweating” doesn’t get it right (I work harder than that), but the next hardest option is “I go all out,” which I do, but not all the time. They need a category that accounts for intervals or something.

That said, it’s encouraging to know that my fitness age is somewhere in the twenty-something range. That makes me feel kind of awesome.

What’s your fitness age? If it’s not where you want it to be, I hope you feel encouraged that this is one area where it’s possible to get younger.

15 thoughts on “What Is Your Fitness Age?

  1. In addition to the idea that you can positively affect your aging with exercise, there’s also incredible variation in how we age. Some of it’s genetic but other aspects are affected by fitness. Here’s the link:

    Old before your time? People age at wildly different rates, study confirms: Tests on physiological markers in nearly 1,000 38-year-olds found that some had biological ages many years older than their birthdates would suggest

    If the school reunion was not proof enough, scientists have confirmed that people grow old at radically different rates, with some ageing much faster than their fresh-faced former classmates.

    A study of nearly one thousand 38-year-olds found that while most had biological ages close to the number of birthdays they had notched up, others were far younger or older.

    Researchers used 18 physiological markers, including blood pressure, organ function, and metabolism, to assess the biological age of each of the participants. For some, the past dozen years had taken no obvious toll on their body’s biology.

    But others were not so fortunate. A good many participants had biological ages in the 50s, while one, described by scientists as an “extreme case”, had a biological age of 61 years old. That meant that for every birthday over the past dozen years, their body had aged three years.

    “The overwhelming majority are biologically in their mid-40s or younger, but there are a handful of cases who are in pretty bad shape. In the future, we’ll come to learn about the different lives that fast and slow ageing people have lived,” said Daniel Belsky at Duke University in North Carolina.

  2. My fitness age ranged from 10 years older than I am to 1 year older (38-29) depending on how often I workout. Though I used their estimate for maximum heart rate and it’s been awhile since I’ve tested my resting heart rate so that was a fair bit of a guess.
    Pretty much none of the exercise questions seemed particularly good to me. How often you exercise is:
    -almost never or less than once per week
    -once a week
    -2 to 3 times per week
    -almost everyday
    Which I think is fine until the last two categories. I typically workout 3-5 days per week. At the low end I guess I technically fit into 2-3 times per week but that is definitely lower than my average. At the high end, I guess 5 might be almost everyday. But I wouldn’t call 4 days/week “almost everyday”.
    I also find it limiting when time is only under or over 30 minutes each. Is there really no difference between a 45 minute workout and a 2 hour workout?
    But then of course, I’m never even sure how I’m supposed to count time for something like this when it comes to lifting. Because my lifting workouts are at least an hour, often 2-3. But most of that time is resting between sets and changing plates on the bar.
    Which also becomes difficult to measure in terms of intensity. Like you say, I “go all out” most of the time, but not for the whole length of the workout. Though I also feel like intensity can come in more than just 3 levels.

  3. I think the calculator is a pretty nice estimation but you’re right, it could definitely use some more options! Awesome idea though

  4. Calendar age 41, fitness age calculated as 26 – which is about the age most people think I am when they first meet me, as well!

  5. My fitness age I’d higher than my actual age :(. Time to hit the gym!

  6. My fitness age is impossible to calculate because age for me is irrelevant. I don’t feel any age in spite that I’m 72. I always tell people that I’m 102 but they don’t believe it. In fact they don’t even believe that I’m 72. I suppose though that I was as fit as now when I was thirty but even if I was fit then doing lots of martial arts, swimming, yoga and jogging I’m much healthier now. The reason is that I gave up exertion and obsession with fitness. Nowadays I teach Tai chi and Chi Gong which are the reasons why I’m so young and healthy. I’ve come to the conclusion that heath and fitness are not exactly the same thing. One can be healthy and not particularly fit while one can be very fit and not healthy. Besides centenarians have never been very sporty but moderately fit. Cheers!

  7. I couldn’t do this age fitness test properly because I don’t even know my heart beat resting rate. My doctor tells me..then I promptly forget. Same for my blood pressure. I tend to forget..but I’m told it’s very good/healthy.

    I think if I just focused on numbers it would be discouraging, not encouraging.

    I guess I don’t go by numbers: I’ve always benchmarked my cardio/endurance fitness by how well /poorly I climb certain local hills by bike at different times of the year. And how long I can bicycle.

    AND I benchmark my weight more by clothing fit rather than just weigh scale.

    So it’s how I feel inside me –the feel of my heart rate, sweat effort and endurance strength. How I feel physically at 56 needs to be similar to how I felt at 40.

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