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A journey to the discovery of the fitness age

In my garage in Las Vegas, it's 100 degrees as I drive through another round of squats and full air-bike intervals, trying to crawl the pain in my legs, lungs, and, well, damn it suppress . Just keep going, I tell myself. Faster, faster. When the repeats are over I'm destroyed: I hit the hot concrete floor and start hyperventilating and beating my legs to flush the pain. My German shorthaired pointer leans his head and gives me a startled look that transcends the differences of mammals. "Man, what are you doing?"

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I started training this way five decades ago five hours ago a week ago. About 4500 hours of my life have been spent in a state of physical stress, and I'm not always sure why. Men have many reasons to exercise. Vanity and performance are the big ones. But I stopped paying attention to my abs after I got married, and I really do not care who I beat in a pushup competition or an organized footrace. The most recent line I've given myself is that all the sweating is good for my health. It will give me more, better years on earth. But when I lie on the garage floor, I ask myself: why do I train so hard and so often at the age of 32? Is all this manic exercise worth it? And if not, what does look like training for more, better years?

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Thanks to research, we know that a person's heart may have a different age than, say, the kidneys or the brain, ie different organs within a single human body may show different degrees of this Stress and stress. (What, when you think about it, is really all age: a manifestation of how much stress or strain your body has endured and identifies.)

But we also know that it is for the average person – they call him "you." are. – Lung health and mental speed reach their height around the middle of 20. From the age of 30, your muscle strength and size decrease by about 3 to 8 percent per decade, and your cardiovascular endurance decreases by about 1 percent per year. At 40 you are slower on your feet. As soon as you reach 50, your brain shrinks and the bones become softer. As of 60, Murphy's Law: What can go wrong will go awry, all pain and doctor visits. Then you are 76 years old and if you like the average American, you die.

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The science of your fitness age

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LeBron James is just one in thirty athletes a little over 30 years old (think, Cristiano Ronaldo and Tom Brady), who resisted their fatherhood.

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Theories, why this happens in abundance: shortening your telomeres, caps on the ends of your DNA, preventing your cells from dividing, free radicals causing your cells to become damaged, your endocrine system losing its ability to regulate hormones, and so on Length of my telomeres or what free radicals have done to my body, or the efficiency of my endocrine S ystems The shit is too abstract for anyone who is not in the lab coat. [19659006] There may be a simpler answer. The National Institutes of Health recently spent $ 170 million on a program called Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity in Humans. Researchers from across the country will work together in a consortium within the program known as MoTrPAC.

The goal: to better understand the health benefits of movement at the molecular level. These researchers are studying the biology-changing phenomena that not only slow your aging watch, but even reverse it, making you feel like you're decades younger than your birth certificate. Scientists have a name for it: fitness age. And his primary metric is something that even a meathead can and does quantify: fitness. "Exercise is medicine. We know that when exercising, your muscles make beneficial connections that circulate and communicate with the liver, the bones, the heart, the brain, and much more, "Dr. Scott Trappe, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University, who heads one of the 23 research sites involved in MoTrPAC.

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So a few months ago, I set out to find my true fitness age and worked closely with Doug Kechijian, DPT, co-founder and owner of Resilient Performance Systems in New York City and Michael Fredericson, MD, a professor and director of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Stanford University, to invent a fitness age formula that includes all sorts of metrics. Would I be younger or older than the 33 candles of my next birthday cake? Were these 4,500 hours fitness complaints free?

If you want to test the formula yourself, try this six-step trial.

Insistence on VO2

Unease is something that Ulrik Wisløff, Ph.D., knows very well. He is Professor of Exercise Physiology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and his specialty is cardiac fitness, especially VO2 max, which measures the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise.

Wisløff, 50, has measured the VO2 maximum of 5,000 Norwegians, and his research has currently made him skeptical: Tell him about your habits and he'll tell you why your birth certificate is nonsense. In 2006 he coined the term fitness age and developed the fitness age. Go to the World Fitness Level website, insert some information – age, waist, rest, how hard and often you train – and its algorithm spits back your fitness age, which in your opinion is your , Older. "So you could be 50 years old, but if you're in the 30-year-old's fitness age, you're really 30 years old," he says. The opposite is true too.

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The Wisløff algorithm estimates your numbers by comparing your age, heart rate, and level of activity against the data it collects. For example, if the calculator tells you that your fitness age is 40 years old, that means you have the maximum VO2 of the average age of 40 years. His papers have been cited more than 20,000 times (most practice studies are lucky to have been quoted twice), and Garmin is now considering the age of fitness in his activity readings.

Even if you are training enough, the exercise you are performing may also be ineffective.

The calculator has a legitimate health benefit: "VO2 max has proven to be the best predictor of current and future health," says Wisløff. The American Heart Association agrees. It also says that cardiorespiratory fitness predicts impending death better than established risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. The higher your VO2 maximum, the higher your dose of age-related medicine, explains Wisløff. The point at which to optimize your health through exercise and significantly lower your fitness age is when you can generate 10 to 12 metabolic equivalents for tasks commonly referred to as METs.

Based on oxygen consumption, METs are a measure of exercise intensity. Sleeping is a MET. When you walk 4 miles per hour, you get five METs. Running about 8 miles an hour or cycling 16 miles an hour brings 12 METs.

Developing fitness to make 12 METs becomes difficult. Wisløff found that the usual advice for aerobic exercise – 150 minutes moderate activity or 75 weekly high activity – is flawed. Forget that only half of Americans fulfill the recommendations for aerobic activity. He says that even if you do "enough," the exercise you do may not be enough to really make you fit.

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"The problem is that these numbers do not reflect the intensity and value do not reflect how your body reacts to a specific activity," says Wisløff. If you do not challenge yourself to meet or exceed 12 METs, you are not optimally protected from disease.

This term led Wisløff to investigate the effects of high-intensity interval training. His research shows that intervals are ideal to reach your VO2 max and challenge your heart, which in turn adjusts by increasing the blood volume of each beat pump and increasing oxygen delivery.

Scrutinizing Theory


The UNLV Campus

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Wisløff created the calculator because VO2 max, like the telomere length, is a figurative and literal pain I'm learning for myself. To test his theory, I go to the University of Nevada in Las Vegas and enter the Physical Education Complex, a 140,000 square-foot Cold War research complex, just one Mile away from the casinos of the Strip Doctoral student Nathaniel Bodell is waiting for me at the Exercise Physiology Lab and stoops over a computer flanked by treadmills, erg-bikes, and squat racks. After a short conversation, he puts a mask on my face, lets me stand on a treadmill and hits a few buttons, which trigger a VO2-max test. The belt occurs. I start to kick. "Just to let you know," says Bodell, "this will not be the most comfortable one today."

The first four minutes of running are easy – slow from a flat 2 to 5 miles per hour – but soon I'm running 7 , 5 miles per hour and Bodell increases the slope. The mask attached to my face calculates how many oxygen molecules I inhale and exhale. The less oxygen molecules I inhale compared to the ones I inhale, the better my body sends oxygen from my lungs to the working muscles.

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Bodell increases the incline by 2 percent a minute or so each time, making the test increasingly difficult. The longer I run before tapping, the higher my VO2 max and the more medical literature, the further I have died from the most popular way American men die. The treadmill has been spinning for 15 minutes, and I'm running 12km an hour at a 12% incline. I knock out. Bodell slows down and then goes to his computer to analyze my numbers as I remove my mask and hover for air.

One can understand the aging process better than what one can find out from a treadmill.

"Uh, are you a runner?" Asks Bodell.

"I'm on the road a day or two a week, and I can keep a pace of less than seven minutes a mile."

"That shows," he says. I register a 64.9 and can meet 19 METs. According to Wisløff's fitness age protocol, my fitness level is the same as someone under 20 years of age. Maybe the thrice-weekly HIIT training is really worth it.

Wisløff's idea of ​​deriving fitness age – classifying a person's "true" age on the basis of heart function is intriguing, but I can not help but think that there are other variables that need to be considered. Look at serious endurance athletes. Sure, their VO2-Max is out of the charts, but they look like they're at the end of a hunger strike, and they're weak, hell.

Some researchers disagree with Wisløff and say that he emphasizes VO2 max too much. Many experts I've talked to – people who study other fitness markers and work with average men on a daily basis – argue that it's more about the aging process than what you can learn about a treadmill. That the most important data does not require complicated masks or laboratory software – just old-school iron and a little sand.

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Muscular Aging Trial

"Muscle is king" 19659047] says Andy Galpin (Ph.D.), a muscle researcher at California State University, Fullerton. "It effects, controls and regulates your ability to move. If you lose muscle quality and can not move, everything else fails quickly. "

Healthy muscles regulate blood sugar levels and alleviate over-inflammation, which plays a role in almost every disease you will kill. Strong muscles may be as important as a strong heart in terms of mortality: The Swedish researchers found that the strongest among a group of men of all ages had the least chance of dying over two decades compared to the least muscle muscle strength. When making a formula to calculate my fitness age, Kechijian and Dr. Fredericson insisted that I test my strength in four key areas.

First a drop bar (a dumbbell shaped like a hexagon with two handles). I enter the bar, which weighs 170 pounds (also known as my body weight), grab the handles, then stand and lift the weight. I walk 100 feet above the ground. This task, a deadlift while carrying a farmer, tests three qualities: handgrip, lower body strength, and the ability to carry weight over ground. According to a recent survey, men with the strongest grip and greatest muscle power reduced the risk of death by 31 and 14 percent, respectively.

Next, I try 300 pounds, which is 1.75 times my body weight, an optimal measure of health. I'm trapped and grabbed, ripped apart – and she climbs. I am strolling the 100 feet. Passport.

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Continue to Strength Test Two: Pushups. The classic exercise will check if you are strong for your body weight. Further evidence that relative strength is linked to mortality is shown by the obesity paradox: Obese people are at greater risk for various diseases, such as heart disease. According to a study from Mayo Clinic Proceedings inappropriate, obese men with heart disease had a lower mortality risk for 13 years compared to normal-weight counterparts. One possible reason: Obese people tend to have more muscle and strength due to their own weight. Build enough strength without fat, and you will probably avoid illness and be in better shape to defeat them when you get them.

I sink to the floor and crank out my repetitions. I reached 40, which is 12 more than the target number for an optimal age for men in the 30s, according to Dr. med. Fredericson citing recommendations from the Mayo Clinic.

Over time, the composition of your muscles, which consist of a number of fiber types, also changes over time. At the lowest level you have Type I and Type II fibers and hybrids of the two. Pure Type I fibers travel slower, everyday moves, while pure Type II triggers explosive movements. Time plus inactivity shift the balance to Type I fibers, a reason why older people tend to move slower. The smaller your type II fibers are, the older your muscles seem to be.

Regardless of your age, you want to build up a reserve of strength and muscle.

If you are only doing VO2 Max activities (cycling and running), you will notice that no matter what age you are with the Type I fibers. The worst exercise approach is not to do anything, but it massively affects your health if you only do cardio.

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Consider the results of a study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology . The researchers compared two identical twins, men with the same DNA, but 30 years of different exercise habits; One was not a regular athlete and the other was an endurance athlete.

As expected, the endurance twin had a healthier cardiovascular system – better blood pressure and lipid levels, higher VO2 max. "But he did not have better strength or muscle quality," says Galpin, who led the study. He actually had far more Type I muscle fibers than his sitting twin. The lesson: Following one form of exercise at the expense of the other improves some health metrics but weakens other critical links in the aging chain.

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For the third test I grab a skipping rope with which I type my II I start rope jumping, jump from both feet and then jump to the jump Just to my right: "1, 2, 3, 4 …"

This also tests my coordination Killing 33,000 Americans a year. "Suppose you're traveling," Kechijian says, "your ability to recover has little to do with balance and everything with your ability to quickly shoot your foot or arms to stabilize , "That's all coordination and Type II fibers." … 48, 49, 50. ", I hit 50 jumps on my right foot, then repeat on my left side, optimal values ​​for each side.

The strength varies, however, and we have to measure more. The final strength test is the Turkish getting up, which focuses on my movement and my ability to lift myself off the ground, and people who could not stand up alone died five times more often, according to a study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology over a period of six years. I grab a 24-kilo kettlebell and lie on my back with a bell over it The task: Stand up and hold the bell, I can do it, not everyone can

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"Regardless of your age, you want to build up a reserve of strength and muscle," says Ball State Researcher Trappe, which becomes more difficult over time, but his research h In addition, even 70-year-olds who have exercised 12 times a week, three times a week, have improved their strength and muscle mass. The men who had stopped lifting quickly watched while those doing a weekly routine kept their profits.

My fitness age is starting to focus. I am definitely younger than 32 years. I have the VO2 max of a 20-year-old and have surpassed all my lifts. Except that my back screams differently.

Looking for a full range of motion

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Any guesses about the fitness age of this gentleman?

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I Call Kelly Starrett – a physical therapist and mobility guru who works with people who work with people Navy SEALs range from top athletes to Silicon Valley CEOs – and ask him what I still lack: "So many people hunt endless cardio or power capacity," he says. "They need just as much mobility. Many people go months without moving their joints through all ranges of motion. "

Not only does this make you catastrophic in the long run, but it also makes you more willing to suffer pain, pain, and injury with every workout a final exam in my aging judgment, a bump on a broomstick. How severe could it be?

F Strength and Cardio This test is a challenge for whole body mobility, which many experts believe is a key to preventing age-related Populations in Asia and the Middle East, for example, who perform many activities in the squat position, see little to no hip and lower back disorders.In the United States, the number of performed hip and back surgery is decreasing Year to.

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I stand with mine Feet under your shoulders, lift the stick up, push my hips back and start to sink. My goal is to squat, feet flat on the floor. Things go smoothly until I click in parallel; I can not go deeper without taking off my heels or tilting my upper body and arms forward.

This is a movement of the old man, but it's not uncommon among guys my age, even among those who train. Starrett says that's because we consider the gym a great place to build strength and capacity.

That's a mistake. Studies in the Journal of Evolution and Health suggest that movement causes both local and whole body changes. As you move through the entire natural range of motion, such as For example, a full squat with your arms over your head can cause dormant cells that counteract aging to jump. The data suggest that people who move in different ways have significantly longer telomeres than less active ones.

Your mobility is only as old as you did it, says Katy Bowman, physiotherapist, biomechanist and author of Move Your DNA . Children have full control over their joints and can easily squat, jump up, lift over them and much more. But mobility is a benefit-or-lose-it proposal. These children eventually sit at the school desk, then come to work with average Americans and sit about six to eight hours a day, according to the CDC.

There is no longer a complex system as a human being.

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When adults move, this usually happens through a few repetitive movements, such as walking and getting on and off a chair, says Bowman. Standard training for cycling, running, some bench presses and curls is an advantage, yes, but we are not moving enough or with enough variety to slow the loss of motion, says Bowman, or avoiding injury, says Starrett.

That's my problem. My cardio engine is enormous at the expense of mobility. Exercise is my weak link, the "oldest" part of my fitness. My lack of freedom of movement may have caused cellular mismatches, which increases the likelihood of shorter telomeres, according to a study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise .

Cellular mismatches? Yes, I have to do a lot more mobility training.

Managing Our Complexities

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<p class= Through all research and testing I have to think of something Starrett told me:" There is not more a complex system than a human being, "he said." Many factors can predict health and longevity.We should refrain from attempting to choose a single silver bullet. "

If you think you're targeting with a silver bullet "I think we need to take a step back and challenge what we're doing," says Galpin. "What you really do The desire for general longevity and well-being is to stimulate, challenge, the body in a variety of ways and to claim Well, what you actually do to get there is your actual workout-it's just noise "

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After all the tests, I run the numbers created by the experts and my fitness age is 28, even with subpar discovering mobility. I bought my body for almost half a decade.

I still do five weekly workouts, but they are different. Most are no longer an exercise in the art of suffering. Sure, I still occasionally press the intensity – it helps reduce stress. But it is no longer compulsion. The whole time, I understand now, will not bring me as much time and effort as I thought. What will happen? I exchanged a running session for a workout, forgetting the numbers on the stopwatch and the barbell and concentrating on improving my mobility. I even count a long desert walk with my dog ​​as a workout, a moving meditation that improves my health, my mind, and the quality of my years.

Has my fitness dropped? Doubtful. Press me and I can do everything I could before. But those hip and back pains that used to accompany the exercise? They have been gone for a long time.

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