Contributor: Rich Butler, MS, USPTA
To learn more about Rich, click here.
How easy is it for you to identify the specific qualities that you would look for in a job candidate at your place of work? From sales to accounting, healthcare and teaching, the skills vary greatly. Do any of the qualities you are thinking of include physical fitness? A few occupations still require an individual to be able to lift 20 lbs., walk 3-5 miles a day, or even swim 1 mile. Yet physical fitness is rarely listed on the resume when job hunting.
Consider the qualities you would want in a new hire if you owned a hiking company. What about if you delivered cases of water for a living? What skills would you need to run a farm? Someone’s height, weight, and age would barely speak to their ability to do the job. Those metrics are quantitative, they do not adequately reflect the qualities needed for those worksites, and they do not do a great job reflecting how well you are living. From the armed forces, astronauts, fire fighters, and public safety, researchers have accumulated normative data on endurance, strength, and agility. And if John Glenn is not just an anomaly but lived into his 90s with vigor due to a commitment to fitness, then we can agree longevity and fitness are linked. So let us go through your skills for this job we call life.
Aerobic conditioning is a score that can be predicted or directly measured. One of the most common evaluations in the field for aerobic fitness is the ability to cover 1.5 miles. The expected length of time for a 35-year-old female might be ~15:00 minutes while a 65-year-old male would shoot for 16:00 minutes. The stress test completed by cardiologists on a treadmill leads to a predicted VO2 by scoring METs (metabolic equivalents of a task). Exercise physiologists often measure VO2 directly with a metabolic cart. In Europe, it is more common to have a subject use a leg ergometer and cycle under increasing loads until exhaustion (sounds just like your friend who bought a Peloton indoor bike). The peak watts achieved is the score that counts.
The American College of Sports Medicine has a guideline that lists the expected VO2 scores for males and females from ages 20-79. Much of their data came from the Coopers Clinic Longitudinal Study in Dallas as well as the FRIENDS study. In short, it is the relationship between max VO2 scores (the higher the better) and longevity that are so robust. Epidemiologist Dr. Stephen Blair, long-time leader at The Cooper Clinic in Dallas, published several papers that compared all-cause mortality and aerobic fitness. They were inversely related. He concluded that adults who maintained the highest amounts of physical activity had the lowest rates of death, even if they smoked.
The Cooper Clinic also studied the maximal force individuals could apply during certain exercises to see if those scores related to mortality. The leg and bench press were used in healthy men and in men with hypertension. Not surprisingly, the stronger the individual, the lower their risk for death. Dr. Blair would argue the data actually supports a focus far more on an individual’s fitness than on their fatness. Much of the data supports this theme and emphasizes the importance of measuring fitness in individuals as they age and not solely their weight or BMI. Qualities over quantities.
Roberta Rikli, PhD and C. Jessie Jones, PhD have created a very valuable testing manual for adults ages 60 - 80 that looks specifically at the qualities necessary for healthy aging. The Senior Fitness Test Manual is an easy to use tool that physicians, therapists, and exercise trainers can utilize to better gauge an individual’s strength, endurance, and balance. In 2011, Lobo et al. published a study that showed significant improvements in the participants of a 12-month health intervention program that included physical fitness training and health education. Again, quality of one’s fitness being the focus, not weight.
Although this is an anecdotal reference, when I ask guests here at Canyon Ranch what their motivation is for getting more fit, they often bring up that they want to age well with their children and grandchildren. Therefore, whether it is 10 days in Paris, 3 days in Disney, or skiing the black diamonds with them, you know the fitness that will be required. Of course, you will also be well prepared to volunteer at the local farmer’s market. You are hired!
Hello quality! More to come...good hustle!
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Riebe D. et. al. ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. 10th Edition: Wolter Kluwers, 2018.
Blair SN, et. al. “Influences of Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Other Precursors on Cardiovascular Disease and All-Cause Mortality in Men and Women.” Journal of the American Medical Association. Vol. 276(3), pp 205-210, July 17 1996.
Lobo A, et.al. “Comparison of Functional Fitness in Elderlies with Reference Values by Rikli and Jones and After One-Year of Health Intervention Programs.” Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, Vol. 51 (1) pp 111-120, March 2011.
Rikli RE and Jones CJ. “Development and Validation of Criterion-Referenced Clinically Relevant Fitness Standards for Maintaining Physical Independence in Later Years.” Gerontologist, Vol. 53 (2), pp 255-267, April 2013.
Ruiz JR, et.al. “Association Between Muscular Strength and Mortality in Men: Prospective Cohort Study.” British Medical Journal, Vol. 337: a439, July 2008. doi: 10.1136/bmj.a439.
Rikli RE and Jones CJ. Senior Fitness Test Manual, Human Kinetics, 2001.