Age: It’s Only A Number.
But What Number?
I heard someone state recently, “I feel ten years older than I should at this point in my life.” Why is it that some of us feel our body is aging faster than the years are passing?
For many, a lifetime of poor nutrition, high stress, chronic dieting, lack of exercise, and a host of bad habits have been slowly chipping away at our vitality. Some may feel like this appears overnight, but in reality, it’s our body reaching the tipping point. In other words, our body has raised the white flag declaring it can’t go on like this any longer.
What we’re really talking about is our metabolic age. It’s important to understand what metabolic age is and how it’s calculated, and what we can do to reduce its impacts on aging faster than our chronological age.
Metabolic Age vs. Chronological Age. Our chronological age is just what you may think it is, the number of years we’ve been alive. Metabolic age on the other hand is a measure of how healthy our metabolism is. Chronological age doesn’t matter as much if we feel vibrant and energetic. But it’s our metabolism’s health that determines in large part how we feel.
So, how is our Metabolic determined? It’s really a comparison to others your age. The formula compares your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is simply how many calories your body burns when you are at rest, to the average BMR of others your same chronological age. In all fairness, the BMR doesn’t take into account other factors such as your overall health or how active you are. So this is a fairly simplistic measure. Even with its simplicity, the BMR has proven to be a good measure for general health at chronological milestones.
If you want to get a quick idea of where you stand metabolically, you can use this Harris-Benedict Equation. Note: Manual calculations are not 100 percent accurate. Getting a completely accurate BMR calculation requires sophisticated equipment used in a highly controlled testing environment.
· For people assigned female at birth (AFAB): (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) — (5 × age in years) — 161
· For people assigned male at birth (AMAB): (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) — (5 × age in years) + 5
Metabolic Age And Your Health. Remember, the BMR, like that of BMI (body mass index) is just one form of measurement in overall health. Be cautious when trying to utilize a single numerical measurement when determining your health and future course of action. Of course, there’s much more to being healthy than having a high metabolism. But it is safe to say when your metabolism slows down, it’s more likely that you will develop additional health-related problems, especially if you don’t make appropriate changes in lifestyle.
Before we go much further, it is important to state that our metabolism does naturally slow over time as we age. However, if you let it slow down too much, challenges begin such as extra weight gain, lower energy levels, fatigue sets in much sooner, and potentially a host of other health problems. If you are a “yo-yo dieter” (one who cycles from fad diet to no diet and back again) this can significantly compound the problem. Why? Your body has learned to burn muscle and store fat instead of the reverse to get through the starvation periods of these diets.
It’s safe to say that none of us want our body’s function to decline due to premature aging or metabolic slow-down. So, only one conclusion can be drawn, we must take better care of our body to slow this process and allow us the youthful vitality and longevity we desire.
Can We Lower Metabolic Age? The short answer is yes. As a matter of fact, we can even lower it below our chronological age. Regardless of what your metabolic age calculation is today, it’s not written in granite. It can be changed for the better with some intentional lifestyle changes.
Consume Better Food
This seems so obvious but because people are creatures of habit, it seems to be the most difficult for many. Reducing calories can seem like a good start, but it’s more than that. The quality of the food consumed is actually more important when it comes to our health. There are a plethora of reasons I could go into regarding the sources and quality of food, but for time’s sake, begin by focusing on eating whole foods (preferably organic) and avoiding all processed foods. What you will likely find is that you are actually consuming fewer calories but what you are consuming is being used more efficiently
Steer away from refined carbohydrates such as pasta, white bread, white rice, pastries, sugars, and cereals. Focus on eating lean protein like fish and chicken, while reducing your portion sizes. Fill your plate with a “rainbow” of vegetables. The more color, the better. Avoid sugary drinks like soda, sweet tea, and even fruit juice. Drink water instead. If you’re not a fan of plain water, infuse it with slices of lemon, cucumber, watermelon, or mint. I can’t overstate how essential good hydration is for keeping your cells healthy and functioning properly.
Get Up And Move
You know that we burn calories while exercising, but that regular exercise also improves your BMR? An added benefit of regular exercise is you will burn more calories even when you aren’t exercising. Another reason it’s important to consume the right calories is so our engine keeps burning fuel even while we’re not exercising.
I’m not implying that we should all be gym rats. If you haven’t been engaging in regular exercise, don’t panic. Begin by adding regular stretching in the morning and evening, stand up more often. Take stairs instead of the elevator. Park farther away from the office entry, or walk around the block after lunch or dinner. Even small changes in your past sedentary routine will aggregate over time to positively impact your overall health and wellness.
As you begin to feel more energetic, see pounds begin to drop, and just feel better, you can become more intentional about developing a more routine, yet enjoyable exercise routine. Take a brisk walk in the morning or in the evening following dinner. Go for a light jog or a bike ride several times per week. Join a group of friends or a class that meets regularly so they can help hold you accountable. All low impact, enjoyable, and minimum cost activities.
As your stamina and endurance improve or if you are already engaging in more high-intensity activities, you may want to try High-intensity interval training (HIIT) which is a good way to boost your metabolic rate. This type of exercise uses short, intense bursts of movement. If you’re not accustomed to this type of activity, slowly work into it.
Quality Sleep Is Critical
There are volumes of research that show how important sleep is to maintaining a healthy weight, vitality, and mental clarity. Quality sleep is key to having a healthy metabolism. If you find you have trouble getting enough sleep or difficulty falling asleep, try setting a regular bedtime routine. Sounds simplistic, but some honest examination will probably show you that you falter in this area. Ensure that your room is cool and dark. Slow your activity down 60 minutes before you want to sleep.
There are several things you can control to help you get a good night’s sleep. Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Follow a regular sleep schedule. Go to sleep and get up at the same time each day, even on weekends or when you are traveling.
- Avoid napping in the late afternoon or evening. Naps may keep you awake at night.
- Develop a bedtime routine. Take time to relax before bedtime each night. Some people read a book, listen to soothing music, or soak in a warm bath.
- Do not watch television or use your computer, cell phone, or tablet in the bedroom. Cease use of electronics 1–2 hours prior to bedtime. The blue light from these devices may make it difficult for you to fall asleep.
- Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature, not too hot or too cold, and as quiet as possible.
- Use low lighting in the evenings and as you prepare for bed.
- Exercise at regular times each day, but not within 3 hours of your bedtime.
- Avoid eating large meals within two hours of bedtime — they can keep you awake.
- Stay away from caffeine late in the day. Caffeine (found in coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate) can keep you awake.
- Remember — alcohol won’t help you sleep. Even small amounts make it harder to stay asleep.
Small Changes Can Bring Big Results. No one is stating that you need to conduct a complete overhaul of your lifestyle to improve your metabolic age. But only you can commit to making shifts in your thinking. Telling yourself it’s just all part of getting older, won’t help you feel physically better.
Tom adopted a few suggestions and committed to abstaining from his habit of sweet tea and soft drinks throughout the day. He turned away from fast-food lunches, instead of taking a healthy vegetable-centered lunch with occasional fish or chicken to the office. Each evening he and his wife took a casual stroll around the neighborhood following dinner. These simple, yet consistent routine changes really paid off! In two months Tom had dropped 43 pounds and his metabolic age dropped below his chronological age.
It doesn’t take monumental change. But the resulting change in your life can be monumental!