Treadmill Performance Predicts Mortality

This study is making headlines in all major heart disease and other medical publications worldwide.

A new study came out from Johns Hopkins University involving over 58,000 adults (male/female) free from any heart disease, and it has triggered major discussions in the cardiovascular health community.

What the researchers wanted to determine was whether a fitness test can be a better predictor of 10-year survivability when compared with other metrics, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.

And guess what they’ve discovered?

A fitness score derived from a maximal treadmill test (described below) was THE best 10-year survival predictability test REGARDLESS of other factors, such as “traditional” risk factors for heart disease, such as blood pressure, sex, and cholesterol.

In other words, people with high cholesterol but good cardiovascular fitness (as determined by the test) had a much higher survival rate for 10 years when compared with people with “normal” cholesterol but lower cardiovascular fitness.

What they’ve found is the following:

  • Scores ranged from minus 200 to plus 200
  • Those with a positive score had lower risk of mortality than those with a negative score
  • Those with a score above 100 had a 2% risk of dying in the next 10 years
  • Those with a score of 0-100 had a 3% risk of dying in the next 10 years
  • Those with a score between minus 100-0 had an 11% risk of dying in the next 10 years
  • Those with a score of less than minus 100 had a dramatic 38% risk of dying in the next 10 years!!

This is a test that’s easily replicated and non-invasive. This is an opportunity for everyone to test themselves, get the score, and make some serious decisions in their lives. 

Disclaimer: this test is designed to push you to your limit, please consult with your physician prior to performing this test or have your physician conduct it.

The basics of the test: the FIT test is based on how close you’re able to get your heart rate to your theoretical maximal heart rate.

Here is what you need for the test:

  • A decent treadmill
  • Heart rate monitor in good working condition (Polar, Garmin, Timex, Nike, etc all have heart rate monitors)
  • Comfortable workout clothes and good running shoes
  • Water

The test, using the Standard Bruce Protocol

  • Total duration: 21 minutes
  • Start with easy walking on the treadmill, and gradually increase both incline and speed until you are forced to stop the exercise
  • Each stage is 3min long, and no stopping between stages
  • At the end of every 3-min stage, you are required to increase the incline AND speed (see table below)
  • Record your maximum heart rate achieved (which you can review later if using a good heart rate monitor with recording capability)
  • Record the stage reached (see below)
  • Use the FIT formula to calculate your FIT Score

Bruce Protocol Stages:

StageMinutes% gradekm/hMETS

Created with the HTML Table Generator

FIT Score Formula:

  • Calculate your Theoretical Max Heart Rate: 220 – age
  • Calculate your MPHR as a percentage:  Actual Max Heart Rate / Theoretical Max Heart Rate
  • Obtain METS from the highest stage reached (from Bruce Protocol table)

Score = %MPHR + 12(MET) – 4(age)      (+43 if female)

For example, here’s mine:

  • Theoretical Max Heart Rate: 184
  • MPHR: 188/184 = 102.2%
  • METS: 20

Score = 102.2 + 12(20) -4(36) = 198.2

I’m more than happy to calculate the score for you if you prefer to send me the data. In fact, if you’d like me to be there to walk you through the test, let me know.