So, apparently my body is a bit confused about how old it is … sort of. I have just had a biophysical evaluation at Longevity Wellness Resort in Portugal – something which has all the makings of a truly terrifying experience.
It actually turned out to be rather interesting (in a slightly narcissistic sort of way) because this isn’t a test that simply relegates you to the categories of ‘good’, ‘bad’, and ‘beyond help’, this is a test that gives you a mathematical insight into how your body is getting on by calculating your body fat, muscle, water, basal metabolic rate (that age thing I was mentioning) and distribution of fat across the body. Combine it with a Nutritional Evaluation, and you will also look at your eating habits and find out your caloric needs based on age, weight, height and lifestyle. So how does all this happen? You are plugged into a machine that does a Bio-electric Impedance Analysis, before doing a brief stint on a cross trainer, while those putting you through your paces chat away to you to see how you manage, ascertaining all the while whether you can go a little further – 500 metres if you’re struggling a bit, or one mile if not. What is interesting about this is not only its efficiency (it all takes about half an hour in total), but its pragmatism. It does indeed tell you your Body Mass Index (BMI), always good to know, but the bubbly, bouncy, instructor, Sofia promptly dismisses that element as a guide rather than gospel because of its total disregard for body type, genetics, and its general lack of common sense. Importantly, as Sofia is keen to point out, what appeals to clients time and time again about this evaluation, is that it isn’t just about an instructor telling you things that you probably already know, based on their high and mighty opinion, this is maths and it taps in to a whole (somewhat unarguable) new level of vanity that culminates in the knowledge that your body could be a totally different ‘age’ to the one you are in calendar years. It also provides a basis upon which to adjust your lifestyle for all health and fitness levels – perhaps you are lacking in water, muscle, fat – it is just that much clearer than blindly venturing into the worlds of calorie counting and treadmills with the simple and invariably unhelpful guide of ‘lose weight’. Of course, it is worth warning that this is also a test that could prove to have some fairly scary results: ‘it isn’t that people don’t know why they are not healthy’, says Sofia, ‘it’s that it’s easy to deny it. This test makes it very difficult to ignore because it’s numbers.’ The good, or probably best news that comes from this test of course is the support network around it at a place like Longevity. The whole point of having it is so you can do something about the results while you are here. I ask if it is possible to reverse problems or if it is simply a case of damage control, and trainer, Elliott, says ‘of course, but you have to remember that it takes a long time to damage your body, so the more you have done, the longer it will take to reverse’. Playing ‘bad cop’ to Sofia’s ‘good cop’, Elliott is determined to find problems with me: ‘I know what it is, you need to improve your core strength, it will show tomorrow in Pilates’. Damn it! How did he know!? ‘By the way you move,’ he says, with all the assurance of a man who knows the human body down to the smallest cell – eek! As we complete the test, we talk about the possibility of replacing my work chair with a Pilates ball – sounds do-able (again, a testament to the practical attitude of the team at Longevity). I leave ready for the next instalment of advice from the nutritionist, but before I go, I ask Sofia (who is about to turn 31), what her biophysical age is, ‘I am 12, and each year I test again to see if it has gone up. I don’t want it to; I want to be 12 forever.’ … Who can argue with that?!
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