Turns out, if you value your life on this planet—and you want more of it—fitness is pretty darned important. In fact, Norwegian researchers just published a study concluding that an estimate of your cardiovascular fitness, based on three easy-to-assess numbers, predicted longevity roughly as well as traditional clinical measurements such as blood pressure, family history, and alcohol and tobacco use.
What are these magic numbers? There are actually four, but one is your age, which is what it is, so we won’t spend much time discussing that. The other three are numbers you can do something about:
- Waist circumference. Shrinking a size or two may do more than help you fit into those jeans you’ve been saving. It may also give you more years to wear them. What numbers should you shoot for? Researchers found the fittest women averaged 72.6 centimeters, compared with 79.3 cm and 91.1 cm respectively for those of moderate to low fitness levels. For men the averages were 84.9 cm,3 cm and 99.9 cm.
- Resting heart rate. In general, the fitter you are, the lower your number. The American Heart Association says a normal, average resting heart rate can range from 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm). In crazy-fit athletes, that number can drop to as low as 40. In the study, the fittest women averaged 69.2 bpm, followed by 74.7 bpm and 80.6 bpm for those with medium and low fitness levels. The fittest men averaged 63.9 bpm, while those of medium and low fitness came in at 70.6 bpm and 78.4 bpm.
- Physical activity. In the researchers’ fancy algorithm (you can see it here) you got a 1 if you met basic physical activity standards and a 0 if you didn’t. To meet the standards, you had to regularly do either: (1) vigorous-intensity exercise training for 20 or more minutes per day on 3 or more days per week for a total of 75 or more minutes per week; and/or (2) moderate-intensity exercise training for 30 or more minutes per day on 5 or more days per week for a total of at least 150 minutes per week.
That’s it. The scientists crunched those numbers in some nifty equations and boom—they predicted with a high degree of accuracy how likely participants (ages 30 to 74) were to die over the next 16 years, not only from cardiovascular disease but from any cause at all. If you need an incentive to get moving, it’s not going to get much more powerful than that. I’m putting my gym shoes on as we speak…see you out there!
Kellee Katagi is one of those strange souls who actually enjoys working out for the sake of working out. She’s spent most of her 20-plus-year writing and editing career covering fitness, nutrition and travel, as well as outdoor sports ranging from skiing to spelunking to street luge (yes, that’s a thing).