How old are you? Are you sure about that – because when it comes to health and fitness we have two ages – our chronological age, which is the number on your birth certificate, and our biological age, which is how your body performs in comparison to the average for your age. And last week I found out my Biological Age thanks to a new test at Fitness First called BioAge.
I say, thanks to, but I wasn’t hugely thrilled with my results. It told me that I was seven years older than I actually am. Admittedly reading what was going to be tested beforehand I was expecting to be a bit older, let down my the fact that I still have post-Australia tummy fat, zero upper body strength and I don’t stretch but actually those weren’t the things that let me down most – and the thing that DID actually surprised me. But I’m getting ahead of myself as normal – first let’s look at what the test covers
BioAge looks at three main areas
Health: This looks at lung function, blood pressure, height to waist ratio etc. I was one year younger than my true age once all this was added up.
Lifestyle: You fill in a questionnaire about your diet, stress levels, alcohol intake and even your hopes for the future. I came out six months younger than my real age here – and I didn’t fib either.
Fitness. This is where it all went a bit wrong. The tests are aimed to test all aspects of fitness from cardiovascular fitness, overall strength, core strength, flexibility and agility. There were some tests I’d done before like how long can you hold a plank, how fast can you row 500m and some things I’ve never tried before like how far can you jump long-jump style (at which point I remembered that I used to do long jump at school and got very competitive), an agility test which sees you jumping out of a hexagon in numerous directions, flexibility which involves twisting and lunges using a VIPR and upper body strength pulling yourself up using a TRX. Surprisingly, I scored well on flexibility, my fitness was just perfect for my age but I lost years on my planking ability, the fact that I couldn’t even do one of the TRX moves and on, surprisingly, my agility. The net result of this was my ending up a whopping seven years older than I am.
Now, the nice thing about the Fitness First test is that they don’t just leave you in old-lady limbo, simply going to the gym more often and blindly hoping that doing whatever you normally do will miraculously turn back time. Instead, when you get your results you’re also given specific ways to tackle the areas you are weakest in and as such one of my key aims now is to increase agility.
What Is Agility?
Agility is defined as the ability to change direction quickly. It’s a task that requires balance, co-ordination, reflexes, reactions, and, to some extent, fitness. We lose agility when we age for a number of reasons – our brain circuits don’t fire quite as quickly which slows down things like reaction times and can interfere with balance. Our muscles also don’t send messages back to our brain quite as quickly as they used to which slows down changes in direction. Muscle mass can decline with age (if you let it) and that makes tasks that require balance a bit harder, and if you’re not at peak fitness it’ll be hard to move at the speed you need to perform well on this test. Oh, and you also forget things as you get older. Things like hair toggles when you go to do these tests.I’m pretty sure I lost at least six months because my hair kept getting in the way and I couldn’t see where to jump (top tip, make sure you tie your hair back). Looking at the type of workout I do, it’s not really surprising mine was a bit poor – I run, long distances, in a straight line – the most agile I have to be is if someone opens a car door as I run past and I have to swerve round them.
The good news is though, by practising agility drills (and investing in a hair toggle) all these things can be changed and you can literally make yourself younger. There’s lot of agility training drills out there. You can…
- Add shuttle drills to your run: These see you setting two cones about 25 metres apart and just running between them, turning round at the end. To make it harder you can have a few cones set in a star shape and run in lots of different directions
- Use a speed ladder: If you’ve ever seen what looks like a ladder drawn, or even a rope ladder lying, on your gym floor, this is what it’s for. All you aim to do is run through each square of the ladder, knees high, trying not to touch the bars.
- Do the Hexagon Drill: This is actually a version of the test they use at Fitness First but it’s easy to practise at home. You can do it the garden or the lounge – and you don’t need cones either – I’ve used the cans from the kitchen cupboard (don’t tell The Boyfriend). Here’s a handy video giving the drill to do as it’s far easier to watch than explain in writing.
I Also Got A Top Tip For Planking
If I want to truly turn back time though I also need to strengthen my core. If I’d just held the plank during the test for ten more seconds I would have reached a minute and performed as someone of my age should have and cut my age down to just six years older. But to tell you the truth, I was super impressd with my performance as it was. Normally when I plank I last about 10 seconds maximum, so to get to 50 seconds was pretty impressive – and the reason for my super performance was so simple too – I was wearing trainers. Normally I do planks in the lounge while I wait for the kettle to boil and so I do them in bare feet. Trainer Andy McTaggart who was doing my test explained this was actually likely to lead to me slipping slightly which would explain why my back starts to complain within seconds and I have to stop. Because my performance is so poor I’m too embarrassed to ever try planks at the gym when I’m wearing shoes and so I’ve never had the chance to make this connection before. It’s really boosted my confidence in this area and so it’s shoe-on planks a go-go for me from now on.
The TRX test though is going to take a bit more work. Leave that one with me.
BioAge is available now to all Fitness First members – if you’re not a Fitness First member, but still want to know how old your agility skills are here’s how to do it and a way to calculate your score.