Researchers have developed a special chart, which can gauge what a woman's fitness level should be at any given age, therefore also predicting her risk of death. They found that women’s capacity is a bit lower than that of men.
The chart - known as a nomogram - was developed by doctors at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. The participant's exercise capacity is measured using a treadmill test and their fitness level is then determined using the nomogram.
According to the researchers, women whose exercise capacity is less than 85% of their age-predicted levels, have twice the risk of death, compared to those who reach at least 85%.
To develop the chart, over 10,000 women underwent a recognised treadmill test designed to determine a person's stress levels, Irish Health reports.
"This is the first study of its kind in women. Despite extensive research on the role of exercise stress testing and exercise capacity, there has been a lack of data on what is normal or expected for healthy women. Until now, they have been evaluated using the men's nomogram, which does not provide an accurate assessment for women", said Dr Martha Gulati, a cardiologist at the hospital.
Treadmill stress tests are routinely used to diagnose heart disease, often after someone complains of symptoms such as chest pains or shortness of breath. The heart's activity is monitored while the person walks on the treadmill, Chicago Tribune informs.
The 5,721 Chicago-area women who took the treadmill test in 1992, however, didn't have any symptoms or history of heart problems. They were given a standard stress test with the speed and incline of the treadmill increased every three minutes until they became tired or had other problems.
Dr. Gerald Fletcher, a cardiologist and a spokesman for the American Heart Association, said the guidelines for women will help doctors encourage patients with poor fitness levels to get more exercise.