Are you fitter than the Crown Prince of Norway?


The Crown Prince of Norway tested his fitness using our Fitness Calculator during an event at Egertorget in Oslo at the World Activity Day in May – and as expected he was quite fit.

Physical fitness is key to a long, healthy life. Your body’s ability to transport and use oxygen during exercise is the most precise measure of overall cardiovascular fitness. The more oxygen your body can transport and utilize, the higher your maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) and hence your cardiovascular fitness. Your fitness depends, among other things, on your age, gender and how often and how hard you train. You can increase your fitness though training!

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Senior Olympics – Aging and fitness

Ulrik WisløffThe Senior Olympics is a biennial competition for athletes over 50 and consist of a variety of sports, and for this year ́s Games, in and around Minneapolis-St. Paul, in Minnesota, nearly 10,000 men and women aged from 50 to 100 participate. The games begin on Friday 2nd of July. Senior Olympians are not professional athletes, but most train frequently, and tend to be more physically active than other people of the same chronological age.

CERGs Fitness Calculator has been extremely popular worldwide and the calculated Fitness Number was recently shown to be a robust predict of current and future health. CERG is now making the first catalogue of global fitness for “normal people” that could be used for a variety of purposes, especially to define large-scale public health policies. We have now fitness data from exactly 100 countries and on average about 1000 new users worldwide register their fitness and health data every day.

1Also, we aim to study special groups such as the Senior Athletes. In collaboration with Dr. Pamela Peeke at The University of Maryland and board member of the foundation that runs the National Senior Games we are now determining the health status and their Fitness Age. So far we have collected data on more than 5000 of the Senior Athletes before the Games starts, and expect to have data for most of the 10,000 participants within the upcoming week. As can be seen from the figure to the right, Fitness Age in both Senior Olympic men and women was about 25 years lower than their real age.

2This is a massive difference! We had expected a big difference as these people have trained for years and are probably among the fittest in the world in their age groups. However we were surprised it was that big. As can be seen from the figure to the left their peak oxygen uptake (fitness number) is about 13 ml/kg/min higher compared with their healthy, normally active and age matched counterparts.

New York Times: Older Athletes Have a Striking Yong Fitness Age

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Test your fitness level – see your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease

oxygen uptakeLes dette innlegget på norsk her!

Our popular fitness calculator has been updated and now you can also see the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease when you get to the results page. Fortunately, exercise gives immediate positive effects, and it is easy to reduce your risk by exercise.

Many studies suggest that your cardiorespiratory fitness level, measured as peak oxygen uptake (VO2peak), is the single best predictor of cardiovascular morbidity and premature cardiovascular mortality. Such testing, however, is very rare in healthcare settings due to costly and time-consuming procedures. In a study from 2011, we demonstrated how VO2peak can be estimated simply on the basis of easily available clinical and self-reported variables such as age, gender, physical activity level, body composition and resting heart rate.

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The fitness calculator in new version

During the last few months our fitness calculator has spread all around the world, and has been tested by more than 1.5 million people. When answering a few questions about physical activity and physiological measures, the calculator provides information about estimated VO2max, which is a well established measure of fitness. You also get to know you “fitness age” – meaning, your physical condition compared to the result of direct measurement of VO2max in a healthy population aged 20-90 years  (the HUNT study). In a previous blog post we have explained the background and how to understand the results in details.

One of the main purposes of our research group is to uncover how to treat and prevent major societal health problems, such as obesity and cardiovascular disease. We approach the issues from multiple angles, ranging from large epidemiological studies to studying the molecular mechanisms activated by physical training.

The fact that the fitness calculator has become so popular, gave us an idea: Why not collect this information in a database, in order to increase the knowledge of maximal oxygen uptake and cardiovascular health in a greater population than earlier?

wfl2Today we therefore launch our VO2max calculator in a new and extended version. After entering your data you will be asked for your consent to storing data for future research. It is 100 % anonymous, and no identifying information is required. However, you are totally able to decline, and use the calculator only for your own information as before.

Try out the new fitness calculator here!

How to understand our fitness calculator

During the last few weeks, our fitness calculator has been spread all over the world, thanks to the NY Times blog post. We are happy to announce that the calculator now inow is available as an app for smartphones (currently only for Apple devices). It is called VO2cal and you can download it for free in AppStore.

The great media coverage has resulted in tons of questions from people all over the world, which we of course appreciate – nothing is better than transforming our research from statistics to useful tools for everyone, and, hopefully, promote a healthy lifestyle. However, it is not possible to answer individually, and in this blog post, we will explain the background of the calculator and answer frequently asked questions. Check out the FAQ section at our website as well.

The calculator uses maximal oxygen uptake as an indicator for fitness, and very many simply ask what this means. Briefly, maximal oxygen uptake is a measure involving several factors:

  • how well the lungs are breathing
  • how efficiently oxygen is transported into the blood
  • how well the heart is pumping blood to the working muscles
  • how well the blood vessels are transporting blood
  • how good the muscles are to receive and utilize oxygen

…and this value has been shown to be the single best predictor of current and future cardiovascular health. Usually, the test is performed by running on a treadmill with a mask, through which the ventilation of oxygen and carbondioxide during high intensive exercise is measured. Much easier to perform at a calculator, isn’t it?

The calculator requires information such as gender, age, waistline measure and resting heart rate, as well as frequency, duration and intensity of ecercise. In a few seconds you get your estimated maximal oxygen uptake, and your fitness age – meaning, how old are you according to your fitness level, compared to other healthy subjects?

The basis and method behind the fitness calculator are described in details in the articles of Aspenes et al. (2011) and Nes et al. (2011), both former PhD candidates in Cardiac Exercise Research Group. Through participation in the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study (HUNT), more than 4600 healthy Norwegians between 20 and 90 years were tested on several parameters, among other maximal oxygen uptake.

The researchers discovered that the mean maximal oxygen uptake in women and men were 35 and 44 mL/kg/min, respectively. Further, they found a ~7% decline in maximal oxygen uptake with every 10 year raise in age in both genders. Women and men below the gender-specific mean were 4 to 8 times more likely to have a combination of more than three conventional cardiovascular risk factors (for instance, metabolic syndrome) compared to the most fit quartile of subjects. The researchers also observed that maximal oxygen uptake may represent a continuum from health to disease, and that a general 5 mL/kg/min lower maximal oxygen consumption was associated with ~56% higher odds of having the metabolic syndrome. This HUNT material is the historically largest and most robust of its kind with directly measured maximal oxygen uptake and more than 4600 subjects, and constitutes a stable reference for the fitness calculator.

oxygen uptakeHow can I calculate my maximal oxygen uptake in liters?
If your body weight is 50 kg and you have a maximal oxygen uptake of 50 ml/kg/min you should multiply the two and convert VO2max from ml/min to L/min (i.e. 50kg x 50 ml/kg/min = 2500 ml/min =2.5 liters/min.)

In your test, is walking at a brisk pace considered exercising?

Yes, walking is considered exercise.

The questions you ask don’t accurately reflect my exercise or lifestyle.
We completely understand someone’s concern about this. However, if we are about to test 5000 people we have to be partly general in how to ask the questions. We have shown that it is reasonably accurate in more than 5000 persons, so in general, the questions can be considered reliable. We recommend to answer as best you can to describe a normal week for you – and we are confident that this will give an accurate estimate.

How can I improve my maximal oxygen uptake effectively?
We have made a 7-weeks exercise program that is presented at our homepage, where you can also watch a video about 4×4 intervals.

Why do you not use Body Mass Index (BMI) in the calculator?
Whether we used BMI or waist did not really matter for the outcome (we made several alternative calculators) but the chosen one was slightly better. Further, it has been shown that waist is a much better predictor of future cardiovascular disease risk compared to BMI in several large studies.

Why do you not include fitness ages above 75 and below 20?
There were too few subjects above the age of 75 to make a reference material that made sende for those older than 80 years of age – and we did not test individuals younger than 20 years of age.

Ulrik Wisløff, professor and leader of Cardiac Exercise Research Group.