If you have a good exercise capacity - capable of high levels of physical activities - not only will your fitness level be high, your risk of dying will be delayed.
It is this “metabolic capacity”, the ability of your body to function at high levels of stress, that determines your physical fitness level. As important, you will prolong your life and keep many chronic diseases at bay.
Heart disease and cancer are two major causes of death that are directly related your physical capacity. If you have a strong reactive metabolic capacity, you have far less chance of dying early of any cause of lifestyle-induced death.
To determine exercise capacity you could have an exercise echocardiogram or any other types of clinical tests. But, there is a simple test to check your capacity.
The Stair Test
Here’s how it works. Climb four flights of stairs at a rapid pace in under one minute. If you can’t do it, it means that your fitness level is low and you need to exercise. The caveat here is that you don’t have an injury that prevents you from getting up the stairs.
The Step Test
Alternatively, the Step Test (more specifically, the Queens College Step Test which is an estimation of Volume of Oxygen, or VO2max, which is a strong indicator of fitness levels).
The Step Test is performed by stepping up and down small-tiered stairs for three minutes. This test is especially good to evaluate a fitness workout when testing before the workout begins and then again several weeks post-workout. The heart rate is recorded 5-seconds after the 3-minute test is performed. Over time, as the fitness levels improve (because of the workout), the heart rate should reduce post-workout compared to pre-workout. This is similar to Heart Rate Recovery. In other words, an improved fitness level equals a lower heart rate - the heart is more efficient. To estimate the VO2max with this test, the recorded numbers: gender, age, body weight, and heart rate are compared in classification tables.
The ability to move your entire body quickly is the functional capacity you have to deal with stress and disease, and life in general. Physical activity has a profound effect on blood pressure, oxygenation of tissues, inflammation, activation of the brain and nervous system, and a positive impact on the immune system - the body’s response to tumors. There are a host of other benefits to an improved physical capacity (or exercise capacity or metabolic capacity).
Fitness levels can be estimated in units called Metabolic Equivalents of Task (METs). These MET units give relevance to how much energy is needed per activity. If you are sitting reading this, your MET is about 1. A fast walk might be 3 MET. Jogging might be 6. A very good functional capacity might equal 10 MET - performing at a very high energy level for the task at hand. Your physical and fitness goal is to have the ability to tap into a high MET at will.
Back to the Stair Test; if you can climb four flights of stairs (about 12-13 steps) in less than 60 seconds, you will have equaled 10 METs, according to Dr. Jesus Peteiro, cardiologist at University Hospital A Coruna in A Coruna, Spain and the author of a study presented at the European Society of Cardiology.
It is the ability or capacity to be able to have 10 METs in your metabolic reserves that will predict your level of health and your ability to fend off lifestyle-induced illnesses and diseases.
I am very close to performing functional tests like the Stair Test for the Myoride Exercise Machine. Because of the ability of the machine to tap into all major muscle groups of the arms and legs and put them under bi-directional resistance I am confident we can increase the Metabolic Equivalent of Task and do it like no other exercise.
Ultimately, we all want better fitness levels - this is really a higher ability to function, have more energy, and stay stronger longer.