“If I could turn back time…” – Cher
We all know the benefits of exercise. Study after study tells us how important it is for health, longevity, mental health, and disease prevention. But can it help us become younger? Could it turn back time?
Researchers at Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease have discovered something they are calling “fitness-associated biological age.”1
In a nutshell, the researchers evaluated mortality risk and the risk for heart attack in a large group of people of varying ages, and they discovered something quite astounding: Exercise capacity (or fitness level) is a significant determiner of risk of death (from any cause) or risk of heart attack. The higher the capacity for exercise, the lower the chance of dying or of having a heart attack.
We shouldn’t be too surprised by this message. But that’s not what I found fascinating. These researchers actually figured out how to calculate the biological age of a person based on his or her fitness level! For example, they noted that a 45-year-old woman with a lower exercise capacity could be functioning, biologically speaking, as 60-year-old. On the other hand, that same 45-year-old with a higher exercise capacity could be functioning biologically as a 27-year-old!
How would knowing this motivate you?
The Johns Hopkins researchers believe that it has the potential to prompt greater compliance in exercise. For example, hearing someone tell you that “You are 45 years old, but your current fitness level puts you at the same risk of death as a 60-year-old” could motivate you. I think it would motivate me, once I got past the sticker shock.
Every January, we are bombarded with weight-loss messages. I’m going to bombard you with a different message: Instead of discussing weight, have you considered how old you are? What is your functional capacity? What is your risk of dying? Are you walking around with the mortality risk of a 27-year-old or a 60-year-old?
Think about how this information impacts our lives. Consider that improving your fitness level not only decreases your risk of death and heart attacks, but also improves or increases the way you function.
I want approach this life with a biological age of 27. I want to feel what 27 feels like (I used to know). I want to go skiing with my kids, go for a hike with my wife, and maybe have the energy to walk up that nasty sledding hill just to slide back down it again.
So, Cher, there is no “if.” We can turn back time. Like most things, though, I want to know where I am and where I’m headed. Let us help you with that.