Learning your physical age with new technology

Recently I went to Dexter Wellness Center so they could show me how our new personal fitness assessment equipment works. I let them conduct an assessment on me since doing is the best way for me to learn. A fitness assessment includes strength, cardiovascular function, flexibility, body composition and when appropriate, blood tests for glucose and cholesterol.
First, let me assure you, it wasn’t ‘hard’. In fact, I was wearing my street clothes for the assessment. The fitness specialist had no expectations for me so I had nothing to prove to him (maybe a bit to myself though). That’s not to suggest it wasn’t physically demanding on occasion. But I could opt out of anything.

The assessment started with a simple measure of my blood pressure and pulse. Then I stood on what looked like a scale. When I got off the fitness specialist told me my weight, my body mass index, the percent of water contained in my body tissue (should be in the low 50% range – I was a bit dehydrated), lean body mass (muscle) & fat mass (too much of that!).
The assessment that really surprised me was the cardio portion (heart, lungs and blood vessels). I anticipated a trip to a treadmill, elliptical, stair-stepper or other piece of aerobic equipment. Not so. He had me lie down on a low exam table & lay quietly. He turned out the lights & told me to relax for about three minutes. That’s it! He was able to tell me my maximum oxygen consumption – or my VO2max, which is a measure of cardiopulmonary function.

The strength tests were the hardest. They were a bit more in line with old fashioned testing – could I do push-ups? Hold myself in a sitting position with my back against the wall without a chair? They tested bicep strength and hand grips. Did you know recent research suggests the strength of the elderly’s hand grip correlates with dementia (confused memory)?

I excelled on flexibility – the only person in my immediate family who has a prayer to excel in flexibility. The test wasn’t hard at all and it wouldn’t be hard even if you aren’t flexible. But it did require I sit on the floor. I asked how they would manage for a person who can’t get onto the floor, do a push-up or bend their limbs due to joint or balance problems. I was told there are ways to adapt and again, you can opt out of any portion of the assessment.

The last thing they did was ask some questions to assess my risk for diabetes.
When we finished they told me my ‘body age’ compared to my actual age. And they also told me my ‘obtainable’ age, if I make changes in factors that impact ‘body age’. It was all very illuminating and rather fun since I made a decision not to care what the fitness specialist thought about me. The fact is he will assess many who are in better health than I am and others who aren’t as fit as I. I can’t compete and don’t have to. Because of careful assessment by the Wellness Center staff I will be able to track improvements in my own health status. After all, I can’t change anyone’s personal health measures but my own.

Authored by Amy Heydlauff, Chief Executive Officer of the Chelsea-Area Wellness Foundation.

A glimpse into DWC's Fitness Assessment Room.
A glimpse into DWC’s Fitness Assessment Room.

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