What is PWC?
PWC stands for physical work capacity and it is a measurement of the maximum amount of work a particular person is able to perform. This measurement is typically used to test a person’s physical and/or aerobic fitness. In scientific terms, PWC represents the VO2 max or the maximum oxygen uptake or consumption during a maximal exercise, which is usually done in a minute or two. Maximal exercise refers to controlled exercises in which the heart rate is elevated to maximum levels depending on the person’s level of fitness or age.
Exercise tests are done to get a person’s PWC. Usually these tests are done on treadmills or exercise bikes. During the test, work load or exercise intensity is increased up to maximum tolerance. Maximum oxygen uptake may be measured directly through a specific machine or may be extrapolated using data from the workload involved and the duration of the exercise test. For people who may be limited in performing the exercise tests with symptoms such as the chest pains on angina pectoris or breathing difficulties in those with pulmonary dyspnea, measurement of oxygen levels or VO2 max are modified to VO2-sl which means that this oxygen uptake measurement is at “symptom-limited” levels.
VO2 max decreases with age and so does PWC. Aging has always been correlated with a decrease in a person’s exercise power and capacity. Aging also affects a person’s strength and endurance along with tolerance to stress tests. Though some functional loss may be reversed through regular exercise and active lifestyle, studies have shown that with aging comes a natural degradation of bodily systems. Even athletes who exercise regularly are not immune to the body’s aging effects and corresponding decrease in endurance and strength. Over time, despite regular and controlled activities to exercise the body and the heart, all people, athletes included, will experience a decrease in maximum work capacity or PWC.