Thursday, November 10, 2005

A question of body age

I felt every muscle in my body tighten in rebellion immediately after the instructor gave me the results of my physical exam. I should preface these words by saying I'm 5'11" and pretty lean (with a little paunch that's been troubling me) despite not having exercised for a few years. I keep lean because, when I notice I'm putting on weight, I cut down on my calories dramatically until I feel my clothing loosen again. I've already played the dead-end game of buying new, more comfortable jeans--the kindler, gentler industry term is 'relaxed fit'--when this inconvenience occurs, but two things put a permanent end to that solution. First, a discovery that sizes on American clothing labels are aimed at massaging a customer's ego rather than imparting valuable and truthful information. Thus, for example, one cannot assume that a 34" waist in a particular pair of jeans means that your waist is 34"; your waist measurement in fact could be something more, er, generous. (In the even more cut-throat world of female fashion, I'm informed that an American size 8 corresponds to a size 10 or 12 in Europe, which is definitely an ego boost for American women when they meet up in London or Paris or wherever and chance to chat about their dress sizes with their svelte, disbelieving European friends.) Secondly, I think it's just plain lazy to upsize when one puts on a bit of poundage, rather than take it as a warning bell to do something. And let's face it, the era of 'supersize me for just a dollar more' is over.

So, after being strapped up to a computer the other night, I was told to do various exercises which enabled John (the instructor) to measure my breathing, strength, body fat percentage and a host of other things that, when aggregated, could determine my BODY AGE as opposed to my actual age.

I have always considered myself to be fit because, one, I went religiously to my gym in London over ten years ago and, two, when things have had to be done because of time constraints and deadlines, I have helped Larry do whatever grunt work was required on one or other of his house building projects. So I approached this entire battery of tests with smugness and absolute certainty of result. And all did begin most rosily. John asked me to do some press-ups.
He said, "Do only what you can do comfortably, even if it's just eight or so."
Always spurred by low expectations and/or challenges, I executed thirty-five with the zeal of a psyched marine, which performance was duly acknowledged by grunts of admiration from John and Larry. Next up was flexibility, which I insisted on redoing as soon as I saw the result flash alongside the words below average on the monitor. A nadir was reached when more wires were attached for the body fat calculation and--and you must remember I have a lean frame--it came in at 28.9%. The desired range lies between 8 and 16% and, but for the fact I had already insisted on one recount with regard to flexibility, I would have disputed the result. So I kept quiet and waited as the computer did its number crunching for production of the body age result. Within a minute, the laser printer began to whine and a sheaf of papers spewed out which John began to riffle through.
'Oh, wow..." he said.
"Wow, it says you're two years older than your actual."
'But...what....but...there must..."
Larry was chortling in the background because his had come in at eight years younger.
"Given your age and weight, it says here that you're two years over in comparison to your peers," said John.
"Well, I guess these things are kinda arbitrary, aren't they?" I said. I have discovered I lapse into the American vernacular at times of stress. "I mean, who came up with this concept of body age anyway? I bet it's some corporation seeking a competitive edge."
"No, it's a complicated calculation and accurate.
"I see."
More chortles in the background.
"The good news is, you can reduce your body age by at least 10 years by working out" said John. "That's what is important to take from this."
With those words, I became appeased. With much pounding and lifting and sweating, I, too, could turn back my body clock just like my peers.
"So I'll draw you guys up a program and let's get together soon and go over it," he said. "When'd you guys like to come in?"
"Tomorrow," I said. "Tomorrow evening."

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Georganna Hancock said...

American women's clothing sizes have alway varied from what we consider to be foreign sizing and used to be something like a European "34" was equivalent to a US size 10; however, the size a woman wears depends on the price of the clothing. A 12 at K-Mart = size 3 in designer clothing at Nordstrom. To make matters more confusing, the industry goes through periodic resizings as I found in the 1980's when I complained to the saleswoman in a fabric store that size 11 was way too big for me. I'd always bought size 9 patterns. She made me read the measurements in fine print and sniffed, "Nine is for young girls with their hip bones sticking out!"

Daphnewood said...

Pardon my crude language but that test sounds like a crock of shit to me. Body Age? How about getting a full MRI body scan to really see what is going on. Just as retailers jack with the sizes of clothing to make people feel better, I think the other part of industry messes with people to make them feel worse. There is sale somewhere in there or the spread of vanity. The true American values. God, when did I become so cynical?!

Damian McNicholl said...

Or emaciated models. Georganna.

I don't take the body age thing seriously, daphnewood. It's snake oil, I'd imagine. However, one good thing is that it spurred me to get into exercising. Anyone over twenty-five and healthy should be following some form of exercise regime, I think. House chores, physical labor and chasing after kids, etc just isn't enough. That's exercise of course, but not at the intensity required for the promotion of good health.

Maybe the gym should put me on the payroll!!! hahahaha

Kayo Kid said...

I sometimes think about not working out, but I'm far too scared (and vain) to find out what might happen if I do (plus I really love boxing). As for the body age voodoo thing, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! Comhghairdeas on exercising again!

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