Modern treadmills come with some pretty cool features these days: Interval training programmes, adjustable inclines, built-in cooling fans, a place to plug your MP3 player in, hey even cup holders. They can tell you how far you’ve gone, how many calories you’ve burned and what your average heart rate was. Now a team of cardiologists from Johns Hopkins University in the U.S. say your treadmill can also predict your risk of dying within the next 10 years.
Doctors commonly use “stress testing” to help diagnose coronary heart disease. During the test the patient walks on a treadmill in order to increase their heart rate and tests are done on the patient’s heart as they exercise. If the patient experiences shortness of breath or chest pains at low levels of exercise, or if the test picks up on abnormal heart rate or blood pressure activity then it may indicate that the patient’s heart isn’t getting enough oxygen during exercise.
Cardiologists analysed data from 58,000 treadmill stress tests to develop a formula that estimates a patient’s risk of dying within a decade. The formula is based on a number of factors including the patient’s ability to adjust to increasing speeds and inclines.
The formula is used to calculate what is called the FIT Treadmill Score, gauging the likelihood of death within a decade based purely on this exercise.
Of course, not everyone will want to know how long they are likely to have left but cardiologists hope that this treadmill scoring system could motivate some of the many millions of people who undergo stress testing each year.
“Knowing their results could inspire them and put them on track to lead a healthier lifestyle,” says Baystate Medical Center preventive cardiologist Dr. Quinn Pack of the Heart & Vascular Program.
“Exercise training can certainly improve your exercise capacity and heart rate response to exercise, the two key predictors of mortality used in this treadmill score,” he says.
“It is never too late to start an exercise program. I recommend this regularly to my patients, both young and old,” he added.
According to Dr. Pack, it is well known that exercise is good for the healthy heart, but doctors learned recently that exercise is also good for the injured heart or even the failing heart.
“Having had an old heart attack or having heart failure is one of the clearest reasons to start an exercise program after an evaluation with your physician. A safe place to begin exercise training is in cardiac rehabilitation programs like we offer here at Baystate Medical Center, where we regularly see improvement in exercise capacity and heart rate response to exercise,” said the Baystate cardiologist.