The following post is written by Oliver Kitchingman, Network's editor.
As fitness professionals, Network’s members are, hopefully, a pretty fit bunch. In fact, I’d be willing to wager that most of you would reckon you feel, and maybe look, younger than you actually are, thanks to your well balanced diet, exercise regimen and refusal to partake in nicotine or alcohol. OK, perhaps not the bit about alcohol, but if the countless industry players I encounter on a daily basis are anything to go by, the first few points are valid. So, with your body being your temple, and all that, how old do you think your body really is?
I pondered this very question only a few weeks ago as I found myself standing nervously in a Sydney gym waiting for my body’s biological age to be tested, a process that I’d seen this year’s ‘Biggest Loser’ contestants undertake. Surely the past few years of (relatively) healthy eating and regular exercise had done me some lasting good? Those street-pounding runs and heart-pounding indoor cycle classes must have undone some of the excesses and neglect of my late teens and early twenties? But then again, a crook back had put me out of action for the best part of the previous month and my cardio fitness must have suffered… I would know soon enough, so I told myself that as long as my biological age turned out to be no older than my actual age, I would be happy. Secretly, though, I wanted to be younger, of course.
The ultimate solution for being younger than your birthday age begins with determining the body’s BioAge, a scientific measurement based on an integrated wellbeing assessment of various physical tests and lifestyle evaluations. There is greater motivation for better long-term health and fitness when focusing on the holistic nature of the BioAge rather than a single factor such as just reducing blood pressure or cholesterol. Now, BioAge testing software has been created for the health and fitness industry by Paul Taylor, an exercise physiologist and nutritionist who has studied neuroscience, quantum physics and positive psychology.
Biological age testing has been developed by a team of exercise physiologists and approved by doctors, making it scientifically valid and clinically relevant; the measures tested have real impact on lifespan and longevity. Taylor says, ‘Making permanent health and lifestyle changes for better wellbeing is easier when we discuss reducing the BioAge, especially when compared with the chronological age; you may be 40 chronologically, but you can have a biological age of 30 or younger!’
‘For motivation of the mind and body towards better health, the key to change is based on the brain’s ‘reward pathway’ where certain rewards are worth repeating certain behaviours. Some natural rewards include things such as nurturing, water, food and sex which are considered vital for continuing existence of the species. Motivation to exercise and eat well comes from the anticipation of these fundamental rewards and the ability to self-regulate – using the ‘executive brain’ to undergo short-term sacrifice for long-term gain’ Taylor explains.
There are two levels of testing; the Standard Biological Age Test determined from physical and behavioural assessments, and Clinical Biological Age Testing which is more comprehensive, adding metabolic measurements including cholesterol levels and lung function. Each test has a weighting taken into account when calculating the BioAge. Elements such as cholesterol and aerobic fitness have a higher weighting than other physical tests, such as the number of push-ups completed, as these have the least impact on longevity.
Lifestyle factors identified as indicators of disease are assessed, such as nutrition, stress, smoking and alcohol consumption. For physical tests, there is a range of assessments which may be done such as push ups, flexibility and measuring the body composition. BioAge testing can be used to assess wellbeing and monitor progress, an assessment that individuals can seek from health and fitness professionals.
To tailor a wellbeing program focused on longevity and for the most effective method to reduce the BioAge of an individual, Taylor identifies where they are positioned on a scale of motivation. This ranges from ‘Amotivation’ where there is no motivation, then ‘Other-Determined Extrinsic Motivation’ where a person is driven by rewards, coercion, guilt and motivation from others such as a partner or looking good for an event. Getting to the next phase, ‘Other-Motivated Extrinsic Motivation’ involves passing through the ‘Threshold of Autonomy’, which Taylor believes is the key to a younger BioAge and better holistic wellbeing.
‘For most people, crossing the ‘Threshold of Autonomy’ is the defining moment for permanent change. This is where you become motivated by good health, fitness and the benefits of these such as reduced stress or a more positive attitude. Following this, ‘Intrinsic Motivation’ is the focus for individuals and athletes who are motivated by enjoyment of exercise, the challenge, and mastering an activity’.
Interesting stuff, and it all seems to make sense. Having a definite, validated biological age can surely only be motivating, fitness and lifestyle-wise. I can’t do anything about my actual age plodding slowly but surely onwards, but an age based on my lifestyle choices, that’s a different matter.
Two hours later I had been weighed, measured and had my blood tested (having fasted since the previous evening). My lung capacity had been gauged and blood pressure taken, my diet examined, flexibility recorded and stress levels indicated. And after that little lot I’d pushed myself to my limit with push-ups, sit ups and running ‘beep’ tests. By the end of the morning I was feeling about 80 years old, but a blueberry muffin soon perked me up and made me feel human again. So, what was the result? I needn’t have feared; after numbers were crunched and results fed into computers the news came in that my BioAge had shaved six years from my actual age. Fantastic, my body was now a member of Generation Y! Did this mean that my car insurance premiums would go up…?!
It had certainly been an interesting experience, and I was pleased with my new age. So, where from here? Perhaps if I added an extra run to my weekly training schedule and tweaked my diet a little I could be 8 years younger this time next year… Better not take that second muffin then.
Find more info on BioAge testing.
Have you tested your BioAge, or are you considering offering the service to your clients? What are your thoughts on this latest tool in the fitness professional’s toolbox?