Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Pinch Test at the Gym

There's a science called "anthropometry." Don't get scared just yet, it's related to the old pinch test at the gym, where your trainer is assessing your total body fat.

Yep. A few years of being too sedentary in my mid-40s, and I decided to sign up for a new kind of gym. It's called the Integrated Wellness Center, a far cry from the Gold's Gym bodybuilder brand, and it includes on onsite chiropractor who works with the fitness trainer and a massage therapist to design a program for increasing fitness.

I had my cholesterol and blood glucose levels checked. I scored in the "healthy" range. Yeah for diet, genes, and maybe the Heart Plus and Fish Oil I take regularly!

I had my resting metabolism checked. I scored "below normal." No wonder it seems like it's harder to take off those pounds I put on over the last six months or so. Lots of reasons to have a low resting metabolism, but my hunch is it's all about "driving a desk" for a living. Working in a small office, I don't get much exercise. "Walking the halls" doesn't help either as there's not far to go, hence the need for a good gym.

Anyway, I was tested for range of motion and symmetry (some I passed and others I failed!). And, I was tested for body fat. Sigh. Some things you just don't want to know.

Scientists like to use fancy techniques like underwater weighing, total body electrical conductivity, total body potassium, and other things I don't understand to get accurate body fat readings.

However, gyms and clinics screen using so-called anthropometric-based measurements such as:

  • Skinfold-thickness
  • Circumference measurements
  • Height- and weight-based indexes such as weight-for-height, body mass index (BMI), etc.
The Body Mass Index (BMI), although popular (even the Internet news sites now have BMI calculators in their health sections), was not given much credence by my trainer. I rather liked it, as my BMI score was "normal." Regan explained that the BMI charts lumped too many people together (same height, different muscle structures, different fat ratios).

I wanted to believe that Regan was simply trying to motivate me to come to the gym but enough studies support her assessment that I had to, for the first time in my life, grapple with the label of being clinically "fat." :-(

I was always a skinny kid and a slender adult, until I hit my mid-40s, that is. And, I've always had a self identity as an "athlete" and relatively "fit," and certainly able to get back in shape quickly if need be. Could it be that I was now "fat?"

Sure, my activity did slow down over the past 6 years. Steve is a fabulous cook and being together has added many meals I would have skipped otherwise. Also, I socialize more these days, so there are more gatherings with great foods, making it tempting to sample everything.

Of course, my friends or family would not consider me "fat" but the stinking "anthropometry" tests caught my attention. I can be a good size (what other people care about) -- but still not in shape and carrying too much fat compared to muscle weight (something I care about).

Alas, it's time to concentrate on building muscle mass again and passing on some of the food that comes my way.

I'm happy to say that I'm enjoying the Wellness Center. There's a different vibe at this place, only blocks from my office, with windows looking out on Gallivan Square trees and regular photo shoots. The place isn't always jam-packed and pulsing with the young and the vain. Instead, there is a steady stream of older professionals who are interested in feeling better and living longer!

I hope more centers crop up around the country to integrate wellness with fitness, all under one roof! Drop me a line about wellness centers in your area!


Anonymous said...

We had a wonderful Wellness Center that was associated with our local hospital, unfortunately it was budgeted out.

When it was open we had groups that formed based on our level of health and the socializing was much more fun, no serious body builders in that gym. The members were wellness oriented the center offered interesting seminars, the trainers would check your heart rate as they walked the floor, kindly offer suggestions on form to improve the benefits of the energy we were putting out.

I found the Wellness Center as an addition to a stop smoking program the hospital was doing. I have been successfully stopped smoking for 6 years. Unfortunately, the stop smoking classes were funded out too.

If another was available in our area I would go back.

Cindy Marteney, CEO, Our Health Co-op said...

Thanks for weighing in on wellness centers. I think our current health care system is heading for collapse and I just hope that more communities realize the benefits of prevention. If it takes a community to raise a child, it takes a community to raise wellness.