Following my lead in last month, we’ve had a lot of people ask about what the Human Potential Clinic does, so I thought I’d take one for the team and try the testing out for myself.
I was nervous to say the least. It seemed like a great idea, but there’s a high expectation in my role to be fit. Plus, the idea of exercising with a mask seemed a bit strange (like something from a bad sci-fi movie). I was pretty worried I looked fit but wouldn’t actually be, and this was going to be my big reveal.
I was told a Cardiopulmonary Exercise Test (CPET) would look at how my body responds to different exercise intensity levels and show my base level of fitness (VO2). This gives insight into long-term heart disease and cancer risk. As well as finding out a baseline fitness and risk profile, the HPC team can develop a tailored exercise prescription that maximises cardio fitness and lowers health risks.
I was keen to know how fit I was, but more so understand my health risks. I mean, if I can make simple changes in my lifestyle to lower the risk of heart disease and cancer, sign me up right now!
Phase 1 – Getting to the Clinic
The Human Potential Clinic is one floor above the Gym so this part was easy. I was greeted by Matt, Clinic Manager, and Allan, Exercise Physiologist.
Phase 2 – Getting set up
Matt and Allan took me through a simple medical screening process, then attached a few electrodes for the ECG to get a baseline picture of heart health. I was given the option of doing the test on a bike or treadmill. The bike is best for ECG, but you can get a more accurate score with the treadmill. I opted for the addition of the ECG and blood pressure, so we went with the bike.
Phase 3 – The test
Once I was set up with the ECG and on the bike, it was time for the mask. This was the part that worried me most. It was a little intimidating at first, but Matt and Allan explained what it would feel like and I soon became accustomed to it.
The ride started easy, but was programmed to increase intensity every two minutes to push my heart harder at a controlled pace. Throughout the whole test Allan was watching my heart rhythm in real time and looking for anything out of the ordinary.
I’m a little competitive so I wanted to push this as hard as I could, but after around 12 minutes my legs just couldn’t keep moving. My breathing felt totally under control, I felt like I was around 75% exertion, but my legs were feeling heavy. I was told this was totally normal and we had a good enough result, so the test was over.
Not as tough as I was expecting. A high intensity, but not earth-shattering, 12 minutes. Allan explained how the bike can be set at different levels and times depending on the base level of fitness.
Phase 4 – Did I pass?
I said I’m competitive right? Results were in, I was worried. I didn’t feel like I’d pushed it hard enough. Well it turns out you don’t need to push yourself to exhaustion to be working out at your optimal level. My VO2 Max level was 44, this put me in the “Superior” category for my given age and gender.
Allan was able take me through what the data meant and it gave me the confidence to train at the ideal intensities for optimal outcome. Now I’m training in the right ranges and making my exercise sessions more time efficient. Overall, I’ve cut back my exercise significantly since joining the AUT Millennium team and I’m happy to say my fitness has improved as a result of understanding my body better and working around my optimal training zone.
Get in touch with the Human Potential Clinic at: www.autmillennium.org.nz/clinics/human-potential-clinic