Can Your Life Expectancy Be Determined by a Treadmill?

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In the near future, there may be a familiar addition to your doctor’s office: a treadmill. This could be good news or bad news, depending on how much you love-or hate-the ol’ dreadmill. (We vote for love, based on these 5 Reasons.)

A team of Johns Hopkins University cardiologists has found a way to accurately predict your risk of dying over a 10-year period based solely off how well you’re able to run on a treadmill, using something they call a FIT Treadmill Score, a measure of cardiovascular health. (PS: the treadmill can also Counteract Alzheimer’s.)

Here’s how it works: You start walking on a treadmill at 1.7 mph, at a 10% incline. Every three minutes, you increase your speed and incline. (See the exact numbers.) While you walk and run, your doctor keeps tabs on your heart rate and how much energy you’re expending (measured by METs, or metabolic equivalents of task; one MET is equal to the amount of energy you’d expect just sitting around, two METs is slow walking, and so on). When you feel like you’re at your absolute limit, you stop.

When you’re done, your M.D. will calculate what percentage of your maximum predicted heart rate (MPHR) you reached. (Calculate your MPHR.) It’s based on age; if you’re 30, it’s 190. So if your heart rate reaches 162 while you’re running on the treadmill, you hit 85 percent of your MPHR.)

While many regular treadmills calculate heart rate and METs, those measures aren’t always accurate, so this is probably something you should do with your doctor’s guidance. (See: Is Your Fitness Tracker Lying?) Still, it’s a lot easier than a regular stress test, which also takes into account variables like electrocardiogram readings, and therefore is much more time-intensive. (Either way, you should definitely try some of our favorite treadmill workouts.)

  • By Mirel Ketchiff @mirelbee

How to Complete the Gerkin Protocol Test on Treadmills

The Gerkin Protocol term is often used in running studies, treadmills documentation, and other running related articles. As a runner, it was a personal curiosity to understand better why this test was so important.

That is how I came to discover some useful information which can benefit everyone, but especially those who dream of becoming firefighters.

The Gerkin Protocol tests your cardiopulmonary health (or simpler said, your lungs health). This is a test demanded by the International Association of Fire Fighters and you definitely can not practice the firefighter profession if you don’t score excellent at this test.

Before I detail more about how this test can be completed on the treadmill, I want to make a short parenthesis. A few years ago the International Association of Fire Fighters launched a new program called WFI (or Wellness Fitness Initiative). As part of this program, they demand you pass 5 fitness tests if you want to become a firefighter or you want to continue practicing this profession. The tests are: Body Composition, Aerobic Capacity, Muscular Strength, Muscular Endurance, and Flexibility. After this new program was launched, the aerobic test was named WFI Treadmill or WFI Stair Mill. Still, in this article I will refer to the aerobic test as the Gerkin Protocol test, as it’s a name more often used.

Gerkin Protocol test is used to predict the peak of VO2. VO2 is the maximum amount of oxygen (in millimeters) your body can use in 1 minute per kg of body weight.

Why is this test important for firefighters?

Firefighters must work in environments that contain toxic chemicals, which in time increase the risks of heart diseases. Moreover firefighters wear enormous clothing during assignments and are obliged to breathe through special apparatus while fulfilling extremely demanding physical efforts. That is why cardiopulmonary tests are crucial for the activity of a firefighter, this way preventing tragic incidents that can occur.

How to complete the test?

The Gerkin Protocol test is mostly done on treadmills because it’s easy to control and to track your speed, incline, and heart rate. The formula is quite simple: you determine your VO2 max value when you reach your target heart rate and you stay in that zone for at least 15 seconds.

There are treadmills that have this preset test in their consoles (but they cost quite a lot). In this article I would like to present you how to calculate your VO2 max on your standard treadmill. Even if this will give you only a predictive VO2 max, it will definitely help with training for this test so you can pass it.

You need a treadmill that can go up to 15% incline and 10 mph speed. You also need a wireless chest strap to read your heart rate during the test. This system offers more accurate heart rate readings than the standard hand grips sensors. Plus, you have more freedom to move.

This is a Treadmill Test recommended by the Fire Department Wellness Centre from Calgary.

1. Start with warm-up: 3 mph at 0% incline for 3 minutes. 2. Continue with running at the same speed, but set incline at 2% for another 1 minute. 3. Continue running and increase speed by 0.5mph and incline by 2% every 1 minute. 4. Continue increasing efforts until your heart rate equals or goes over your target heart rate. Run for another 15 seconds. 5. Cool down for 3 minutes at 3 mph speed and 0% incline.

To do this test, first you must know your target heart rate (based on your age and sex). You can find the standard values on the web. Or you can consult your physician before starting to prepare for this test (always recommended).

During workout, you increase incline/speed until your heart rate exceeds the target heart rate for 15 seconds. When you reach this level, continue running without making any change to treadmill’s settings for another 15 seconds. After the 15 seconds pass, go to the cool down step.

At the end of the workout record the total time until the point you exceed the Target Heart Rate, including the 3-minute warm-up.

Extremely important: If during this exercise you experience any type of chest pain, other physical symptoms or breathing problems, change to cool down mode immediately and stop the test. Consult your physician before anything else. Also, if you do not go over your target heart rate within 18 minutes, stop the exercise.

How do you know when you pass the test?

If you finish the test within the following time/speed/incline settings, you will pass.

Stage 10 is the minimum you need to pass. Stage 14 is the maximum score. If you have lower results, then you will need to focus first on aerobic and cardio workouts to increase your fitness level and your resistance.

What treadmills can support this training?

This will come as good news to all. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to have a treadmill that can help you train for this test. There are budget treadmills (between $1,000 and $1,500) that support 15% incline and up to 10mph (and have the wireless chest strap included). But even better, these treadmills can have the target heart rate tables included in their consoles or include tracking systems so you can keep count of your results in time. Our recommendation is to go with Livestrong treadmills. They never failed us during our tests.

This article is written by Anna Ursu, a runner and treadmill tester for RunReviews.

References used: International Association of Fire Fighters official website documentation

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Fitness Testing


(This information has been adapted from my book, The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up. For details, please consult the book).

Worldwide, physicians rely on the MET scale on a standardized treadmill test to gauge cardiovascular function. They commonly use what’s known as the “Bruce Protocol,” increasing the speed and incline of the running surface every three minutes until the point you feel you are at maximum exertion. This means you will be pushing yourself on a stationary bicycle or treadmill (one that shows you a MET level on the screen) to the point where you are breathing hard, puffing, and just barely able to talk in short sentences but clearly unable to sing. Your stride is still steady (you aren’t stumbling), your color is good, and you could keep on going a few more seconds. Once you get to this point, you will know your MET level.

This protocol is designed to be done in a physician’s office under the supervision of a doctor who knows you personally. You should always consult your physician before considering this type of testing. The more medical problems that you have, the more important that you perform this type of testing with your own doctor.

You should have an accurate way to measure your heart rate to proceed. At the least, use a heart rate monitor with a chest strap to accurately measure your heart rate with exercise. Most physicians would use an ECG tracing that measure the actual rate and rhythm of your heartbeat.

How to Do the Bruce Protocol

Start the treadmill at 1.7 miles per hour with a 10 percent elevation. (This should be an easy walking warm-up speed.) After exactly three minutes, increase the speed to 2.5 miles per hour and the elevation to 12 percent. Continue to increase the settings every three minutes. When you reach your maximal, comfortable exertion level, (breathing hard and just barely able to talk in short sentences) check your pulse. This is your maximum heart rate, which is extremely beneficial for you to know.

Using a heart-rate-measuring tool such as a chest band and a wristwatch that shows your heart rate precisely. (Treadmills and exercise machines with measuring devices in the handgrips may not be accurate enough as they usually record only a three-beat sequence and yield varying heart rates.) Monitor your heart rate during each stage. Most exercise machines at the gym can calculate your MET score for you. Obviously, if you do this test with a trainer, he or she will ensure that your MET is calculated.


Physicians typically use this treadmill exercise protocol to look for signs of heart disease, yet it can also be used to measure aerobic fitness. To calculate your score, you need to determine your MET level based on when you stop the treadmill test. The longer you last, the higher your score will be. But before you begin, ask your doctor if you are safe to do this test with a physician, an exercise physiologist, or on your own.

*If your treadmill doesn’t go beyond 15 percent elevation, at 10 minutes adjust the incline to 15 percent and increase your speed to 4.4 miles per hour and at 13 minutes maintaining the 15 percent incline and increase the speed to 5.4 MPH.

Under proper supervision, for this type of evaluation, you should try to push yourself hard. You’ll be sweating, puffing, and nearly spent but still capable of running well without stumbling and able to talk in short sentences. This is your maximum heart rate zone, so record it and then stop.

Below is an example of results with a patient in my clinic. Jake has been my patient for three years. At the age of 58, he could sing for the first nine minutes on the treadmill using the Bruce protocol elevation and speed guide I outlined above. That meant he wasn’t exercising at an aerobic level. From ninth through the twelfth minutes he was moderately winded, sweating, and could talk in only two-word sentences. He felt he was working pretty hard, but he could still keep going. This is his best workout zone. He noted his heart rate. By 13 minutes he was spent. He couldn’t talk in two short phrases without taking a breath. We calculated his maximum heart rate and stopped. He scored 13.3 METS.

From the table below, you can see that if a woman lasts 14 minutes and stops, her score would be 12.5 METS. On average, women achieve a slightly lower score with this table partly because they are usually smaller than men so they have less weight to carry uphill. So in principle, a slim man might choose the score from the woman’s table and a heavy woman could choose a score from the men’s. Keep in mind these are only estimates and you’d have to do a real oxygen burning treadmill test with a physician like me to calculate your score with 100 percent accuracy. Below are sample tables for men and women to help you calculate where you stand in METs compared to other people of your gender and age.

Aerobic Capacity Testing for Women

Maximum Aerobic Capacity Achieved (in METs) by age

Percentile 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60+

Aerobic Capacity Testing for Men

Maximum Aerobic Capacity Achieved (in METs) by age

Percentile 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60+

Tables were adapted with permission of the American College of Sports Medicines Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, 6th Edition, 2000. Data provided by Institute for Aerobics Research, Dallas, TX.

After performing your aerobic fitness test with a machine that can calculate your maximum MET score, compare your actual achieved score with your age and gender in the charts above. For example, if 45-year-old Michelle runs on the treadmill for 11 minutes and 15 seconds, she reaches 10.9 METS, just above the 80th percentile for her age group; this means she is in good but not excellent physical condition. In contrast, 58-year-old Jake ran for 13 minutes, scoring 13.3 METS, 90th percentile for someone 5-10 years younger, so he is in very good shape.


In the Bruce Protocol I described above, I asked you to take your pulse at your level of maximum exertion. Now, immediately decrease the speed to 1 mile per hour with no elevation. You’ll do this because another good predictor of your heart’s ability to accommodate varying levels of physical effort is to track how quickly your heart rate drops after peak exercise. Your heart can race as high as 160 to 200 beats per minute. When you stop, the quicker your heart rate drops the better. Here’s what to do:

After reaching your maximum exertion rate, walk 1 mile per hour without incline for one minute and take your pulse again. A minimum 25-beat drop at 60 seconds is normal, but I’d prefer more than a 30-beat drop, that would show good heart rate recovery. (However, if you have had heart surgery or are taking medication that alters your heart rate, then your recovery may not meet these guidelines and you should clarify your targets with your own physician.) Athletes will often observe their heart rate drops by 40-60 beats at one minute. On the other hand, if it drops less than 20 beats at one minute, this would be concerning, and if it drops less than 12 beats, I’d call that alarming. At two minutes, your heart rate should drop by at least 45 beats. This too indicates a good cardiac recovery level.

Steven Masley, MD

Ever wonder if you’ll be alive one decade from now?

Well, barring accidents and similar fatal misfortunes, cardiologists at Johns Hopkins say they can make a calculated prediction using two simple tools—a treadmill and a heart rate monitor.

The new formula, named the FIT Treadmill Score, is described in the March issue of the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings. It factors in a person’s age, gender and ability to exercise on a treadmill at an increasing incline and speed. The resulting score correlates with a person’s 10-year risk of dying from any cause—patients who scored highest on the test (the most physically fit) had a 2 percent risk of dying, while those with the lowest scores had a 38 percent risk.

A new treadmill test may help docs peer into your health future.

This is not the first exercise-based risk test to be developed—the Duke Treadmill Score is one commonly used example. But what makes the FIT Treadmill Score unique is that it’s meant for healthy people and is based solely on fitness. Previous tests were designed for patients with existing heart disease and required inputs from more high-tech equipment like electrocardiograms (EKGs).

“The notion that being in good physical shape portends lower death risk is by no means new,” says lead investigator Dr. Haitham Ahmed, a cardiology fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

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“But we wanted to quantify that risk precisely by age, gender and fitness level, and do so with an elegantly simple equation that requires no additional fancy testing beyond the standard stress test.”

To develop the formula, Ahmed and colleagues analyzed data from more than 58,000 heart stress tests in a group patients aged between 18 and 96 in Detroit, Michigan.

The study examined “all-cause mortality” (that is, dying from any cause), which is largely what makes this research so interesting. Theoretically, a person could die in the next 10 years from a freak accident that may not be preventable by being physically fit. But that risk was factored in. And that’s why even test subjects in peak physical shape had a 2 percent chance of dying a decade from now.

But even the authors acknowledge the precise formula may not yet be perfect.

Gordon Blackburn, director of cardiac rehabilitation at the Cleveland Clinic, participants were all patients who had been referred for a cardiac stress test, meaning they likely were already at high risk. The formula still needs to be tested in other groups to make sure it’s as reliable in a general, healthy population.

Despite these limitations, Blackburn was impressed, calling it “a great study,” and adding: “The bottom line is fitness or exercise capacity is a strong predictor of mortality.”

But is that risk of death set in stone?

Not according to Blackburn, who says research has shown that you can change your odds of an early exit by changing your fitness level. “It’s a nice catch for patients to know, ‘If I’m going to put this much effort into changing my activity level, what am I going to gain?’ It’s a motivating factor.”

The CDC recommends that adults aged 18-64 get at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking, every week. But Blackburn says only about 20 percent of Americans meet that mark.

So, should you hop on your treadmill and start calculating your death risk at home? No, experts say. The test is designed to be done under a doctor’s supervision and some of the calculations are just too complicated to do on your own.

But logging a few hours on the gym treadmill each week is not a bad idea.


By Mary Snyder

Treadmills are excellent machines and tend to serve as your “old faithful” exercise equipment, lasting for several years with proper upkeep. Without a properly functioning belt, however, the control board or motor could switch into overdrive in order to compensate for the excess work needed to move the belt.

This can actually destroy these electronic components, which are even more expensive than the belt itself! Though this type of problem can potentially be avoided through regular maintenance, the bare minimum will get you only so far in prolonging the life of that machine…so here are five checks to see if your belt needs to be replaced, as opposed to holding off a tad longer:

  1. Check the exterior – this will be the easiest check for your belt. Is the belt bare or shiny in appearance where the feet fall, or is the belt rolling up on the edges or even the middle?
  2. Check the bottom side of your belt – You will want to look for anything that feels torn or rough. Also be sure to slide your hand along the bottom of the belt to check for a difference in texture (roughness, for example).
  3. Check your mileage – most treadmills have built-in service checks within their console (not sure how to find this? Refer to your owner’s manual or contact your equipment sales representative to access instructions on getting into the console). Most treadmill belts have a life expectancy of 15,000 miles or roughly 2-3 years of regular use, though this varies depending on the manufacturer. *Owner note: if your treadmill has not been kept clean and maintained properly, you may find a belt gone bad before the average life expectancy!
  4. Check for sticking – when your treadmill begins to “stick” while in use by a member, this is a sensation experienced when the belt is so worn down that it is not running over the treadmill deck smoothly. *Owner note: Members will often report this sensation as the belt, “slipping”
  5. Check the deck – If the deck appears worn or there are obvious grooves or deep scratches, then you will also want to consider replacing this along with the belt to ensure optimum functioning of your treadmill.

If you find several or all of these symptoms following your checks, one final test to determine the health of your treadmill can be done by calling in a professional to check the wattage of your machine. The relative amount of watts that the motor pulls indicates how high the friction between the deck and the belt is…if your watts are too high, your motor is under too much stress and can lead to burning up the motor and circuit boards.

~Did you find these tips helpful? Are there other machines you would like to hear about? Please leave a comment with your thoughts on the subject!

Tags: belt replacement, treadmill life expectancy

Approximately how long does a treadmill last for?

You really do get what you pay for when it comes to treadmills. Majority of the brick and mortar stores carries absolute junk. Very cheaply made and poor quality that will fall apart like a two dollar suitcase. I just bought a treadmill as well, but I did my digging and reading before buying.

A lot of the brands you see and get exposed to typically are all made by one manufacturer – Icon Fitness, who makes treadmills for brands like NordicTrack, ProForm, etc. Generally most of them are rubbish…expect to be close friends with the phone rep and the repair man. You really do have to go to the high end spectrum within these brands to get something of value.

I settled on a used commercial machine because these were what I was used to at the gyms and quality/build of these blow the residential treadmills out of the water. Here is what I liked about the commercial machines over the residential ones: Build quality (high quality drive and incline motors, frame, etc), high quality belt and deck that don’t need to be lubed and deck can be flipped if needed, better cushioning / comfort due to sturdy construction (no vibration, shaking, etc), smooth running experience due to the powerful motor. What you need to be aware of is that these are HEAVY machines (400++ lbs) and require more electricity (typically 5-20 NEMA) than your standard treadmill, but they are built to last and can take a beating. In a residential setting, these will literally last 10++ years with very minimal maintenance. Commercial brands to consider: Matrix, Cybex, Precor, Star Trac, Landice, Life Fitness. When buying used, ask for the # of miles on odometer, look at condition of belt/deck and test out machine if you can with short sprint and incline to see if the belt is slipping, etc.

If you do decide on a typical run of the mill treadmill from a brick and mortar store, I would recommend a non-foldable one over foldable. Keep a very close eye on the warranty on the frame, motor, electronics, etc. That’s a good indicator of confidence in their product. Look to see what is covered (labor, parts, etc). You can also get one very minimally used cheap in February by people who have already broken their New Year’s resolutions and have a very expensive clothes hanger that are ready to unload to clear up space.

LifeSpan TR6000i Treadmill

Built to last, the LifeSpan TR6000i light-commercial treadmill will support you through your toughest workouts in the most demanding commercial settings. Armed with incline and decline capabilities, gym-quality componentry, and sprint-length dimensions, the TR6000i guarantees no training goal goes unfulfilled. Built-in speakers and integrated tablet holder provide entertainment at no annual cost, keeping you focused on the miles ahead.

Supports extreme running workout

Powerfully equipped with a heart-pounding 3.5hp AC motor that supports blazing running speeds of up to 13.5 mph, this light-commercial treadmill takes your fitness to the professional level. The roomy 22″ by 60″ running surface accommodates all training styles and supports runners of all sizes. Precisely target your calves and quads with 13 levels of incline, or strengthen your lower body with 3 levels of performance decline training. Just make sure to keep a towel handy.

22″ wide running surface, 13.5 mph maximum speed, 3.5hp AC Motor

Built to last

Following LifeSpan’s legacy of quality, the TR6000i’s maintenance-free belt, oversized front roller, and power-packed incline lift motor guarantee years of rigorous use, perfect for demanding runners and high-traffic environments, such as hotel gyms and on-site fitness centers. Run with confidence, we’ve got you covered.

Maintenance-free Habasit® running belt, 800 lb. Lift Motor, oversized front roller

Intuitive console

Easy to navigate and armed with fitness features, the TR6000i’s 6″ LCD console gets you moving toward your goals faster. The 21 included running programs are perfect for weight loss, healthy living, and performance training, and ensure something for everyone. Training data is easily viewed at a glance, including readouts for mile pace and altitude change.

The onboard Rockport Fitness Test is ideal if you are looking to start your fitness journey, while the 5k/10k race program, which displays real-time pace and predicted time of completion, is perfect if you are training for competition.

Simple, easy-to-navigate display, integrated tablet holder and speakers, readouts for Pace and Altitude

True commercial application

A treadmill is only as good as its warranty. True to form, the LifeSpan TR6000i is backed with confidence-inspiring guarantees on frame, parts, motor, and labor. At LifeSpan, we back every commercial treadmill with a commercial warranty. No frills, false promises, or hidden fees.

Aluminum side rails, ultra-thick handrails, robotically-welded steel frame


  • Display Area: Multi-color 6″ LCD with simultaneous readouts, exercise program name and profile, and personal data from your USB storage device.
  • Heart Rate Monitor: Contact heart rate sensors and chest strap receiver (chest strap included)
  • Programs: 2 heart rate programs, 2 customized user programs and 19 preset programs (5 weight management, 5 healthy living, 7 sports training, warm up, cool down)
  • Rockport Fitness Test: Developed by exercise physiologists to determine fitness level. This timed 1 mile walk is perfect if you are new to exercise.
  • Navy Fitness Test: Used by the Navy in conjunction with push-ups and sit-ups to determine fitness level. This timed 1.5 mile run is perfect for intermediate to advanced fitness enthusiasts.
  • Console Readouts: Time, calories, distance, steps, heart rate, speed, incline level, pace, and elevation change
  • Audio Center: Auxiliary audio jack and built-in speakers let you exercise to your favorite music.
  • Media Holder: Conveniently holds you phone or tablet just behind the control buttons for easy access and viewing.
  • USB Plus: Dual-purpose USB port charges your mobile devices (doesn’t charge iPad 1, iPad 2, or iPad 3) and saves your exercise results to a USB drive for upload into your free Club account.
  • Bluetooth: Optional Bluetooth* receiver supports Active Trac™ and Train & Trac™ apps to get the most out of your workouts and automatically capture your results. It’s easy to install via the removable access panel on the back of the console. Installation allows you to wirelessly connect your treadmill to your Android device or iPad® to automatically synchronize your results with your LifeSpan Club account. * Only the LifeSpan Bluetooth adapter is compatible with the treadmill and can be purchased separately.
  • Easy to Use: Includes 5 Quickset™ speed and 5 Quickset™ incline buttons for quick change of the incline or speed settings with fewer button presses.
  • Intelli-Step™: This step counting feature works like a pedometer, automatically counting steps taken.
  • Intelli-Key™: Simplifies console operation with sequential button illumination that prompts you through program selection and setup.
  • Intelli-Guard™: This patented feature ensures your safety by automatically pausing the belt 20 seconds after you step off the treadmill deck.

Active Trac

Bluetooth connectivity with your Android (5.0 or later) and iPhone (4S or later) device collects and syncs your data directly to your Club account, seamlessly capturing all of your activity. Automatic entry of fitness information keeps you updated while on the go, and social features let you share your successes.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have devised a simple treadmill test and formula to calculate your odds of surviving the next ten years, and it goes like this: FIT Treadmill Score = %MPHR + 12 (METS) – 4 (age) + 43 (if female). Here’s how it works and what it means to your health.

“The notion that being in good physical shape portends lower death risk is by no means new, but we wanted to quantify that risk precisely by age, gender and fitness level, and do so with an elegantly simple equation that requires no additional fancy testing beyond the standard stress test,” noted team leader Haitham Ahmed of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in a statement.


To create this algorithm, Ahmed’s team studied 58,020 adults from Detroit aged 18 to 96 who were being evaluated for chest pain, shortness of breath, fainting, or dizziness (all of the participants were free from established heart disease). These individuals were put through exercise stress tests from January 1991 through to May 2009.

For the test, participants exercised on a treadmill at increasing speed and incline. While they were exercising, the researches measured peak heart rate (%MPHR) and their ability to withstand physical exertion. On that latter point, they measured metabolic equivalents, or METs, which gauges how much energy the body expends during exercise. The more intense the exercise, the higher the METs (e.g. slow walking = ~2 METs, whereas running = ~8 METs).

In addition, the researchers collected data as it pertained to test subjects’ age and mortality. Once all the data was in, statistical models were used to identify the test variables most predictive of survival. They found that, among people of the same age and gender, fitness level was the single most powerful predictor of death, i.e. “all cause mortality,” and survival. This continued to be the case even after accounting for such conditions as diabetes and a family history of premature death.

Here’s the formula they came up with:

FIT Treadmill Score = %MPHR + 12 (METS) – 4 (age) + 43 (if female)

Yes, women live longer than men, hence the 43 bonus points.

The Mayo Clinic explains how the results of the formula are to be read:

Scores ranged from negative 200 to positive 200, with those above 0 having lower mortality risk and those in the negative range facing highest risk of dying. Patients who scored 100 or higher had a 2 percent risk of dying over the next 10 years, while those with scores between 0 and 100 faced a 3 percent death risk over the next decade. In other words, two of 100 people of the same age and gender with a score of 100 or higher would die over the next decade, compared with three out of 100 for those with a fitness score between 0 and 100. People with scores between negative 100 and 0 had an 11 percent risk of dying in the next 10 years, while those with scores lower than negative 100 had a 38 percent risk of dying.


Put another way, scores between 100 and 200 means a person has 98% assessed probability of surviving the next ten years, while a score between -100 and -200 suggests a person has a 62% chance of surviving.

As an example, a 45-year-old woman with a fitness score in the bottom fifth percentile has an estimated 38% risk of dying over the next decade, compared with 2% for a 45-year old woman with a top fitness score.


That’s a shocking difference — one that points to the importance of regular exercise and cardiovascular health. It also suggests that you may want to up the intensity level at the gym.

“In medicine we usually base predictions of survival on the absence or presence of a disease state,” noted ABC News medical contributor Dr. Jennifer Ashton. “What’s new here is that there is now a fancy equation doctors can use to compare the chances of survival for one 50-year-old woman against another 50-year-old woman.”


It’s obviously important to take a study like this with a grain of salt and not panic if your odds are uncomfortably low. This algorithm is not destiny. Moreover, as noted by the study’s authors, regular exercise can influence your results.

You may also not want to evaluate yourself. As noted by Melissa Healy in the LA Times, “Do-it-yourself stress testing is probably not very reliable, since a physician or sports physiologist needs to be around to decide when to call a halt to the test (and therefore what maximum a test-taker has achieved).”


Sources: Mayo Clinic, LA Times, ABC News. Read the entire scientific study in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Top image: Brian A Jackson/


What’s your chance of living another 10 years?

Forget the psychic. Your doctor can predict your risk of dying in the next decade with a new treadmill test score.

Developed by cardiologists from Johns Hopkins, the FIT Treadmill Score is based on basic treadmill performance measures taken from nearly 60,000 adults from Michigan between the ages of 18 and 96 years who completed a standard cardiac exercise stress test.

A stress test typically consists of a brisk walk on a treadmill, following a standardized procedure for increasing speed and elevation, while electrocardiographic monitoring detects any abnormal heart rhythms and other indicators that your heart is under stress from lack of oxygen during exercise.

To calculate a patient’s FIT Treadmill Score, doctors use a formula that factors in four key variables: age, gender, peak heart rate during intense exercise, and ability to tolerate physical exertion as measured by metabolic equivalents, or METs.

“METs are a measure of your heart’s workload based on the amount of oxygen it takes in and how much energy you use during exercise,” said David Langholz, MD, co-director, Spectrum Health Frederick Meijer Heart and Vascular Institute. “The higher the number, the more work your heart can do.”

While the link between how fit your heart is and your risk of death is nothing new, this formula is. For the first time, a simple equation, based solely on treadmill exercise performance, can gauge longer-term death risk.

Your score, the research team says, could yield valuable clues about your health and should be calculated for the millions of patients who undergo cardiac stress testing in the United States each year.

“This really is great news. How often do you get a chance to peer into your future and influence your own destiny?” Dr. Langholz asked. “People can see how they score now, and then take steps to improve their cardiovascular health and fitness level if they need to. A tool like this empowers people with the knowledge–and often the motivation–they need to actually change a predicted outcome. You can’t do that with a lot of diseases.”

How hard your heart works during your stress test, and your maximum heart rate as compared to what doctors might expect of someone your age and gender, are the most highly predictive of 10-year survival. Neither of these measures can be obtained from a home treadmill, Dr. Langholz noted.

Here’s how it works (caution: math ahead!)

FIT Treadmill Scores range from −200 to +200 and are stratified into three groups, each with a predictive 10-year survival rate. Those above 0 having lower mortality risk and those in the negative range facing highest risk of dying.

Patients who scored 100 or higher had a 2 percent risk of dying over the next 10 years, while those with scores between 0 and 100 faced a 3 percent death risk over the next decade. In other words, two of 100 people of the same age and gender with a score of 100 or higher would die over the next decade, compared with three out of 100 for those with a fitness score between 0 and 100.

People with scores between negative 100 and 0 had an 11 percent risk of dying in the next 10 years, while those with scores lower than negative 100 had a 38 percent risk of dying.

For example, a 45-year-old woman with a fitness score in the bottom fifth percentile is estimated to have a 38 percent risk of dying over the next decade, compared with 2 percent for a 45-year-old woman with a top fitness score.

If Score >= 100, 2% risk of death

If 100 > Score >= 0, 3% risk of death

If 0 > Score >= -100, 11% risk of death

If -100 > Score >= -200, 38% risk of death

Published along with the study is a chart depicting death risk by age, gender and fitness level, which can be printed on placards for use in physician’s offices to guide clinical advice.

Dr. Langholz said other stress test scoring systems measure shorter-term risk of death as well as risk of an impending cardiac event, such as a heart attack. These are used for patients with established heart disease or signs of cardiovascular trouble and also factor in other test results such as electrocardiograms.

Treadmill fit test scores

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