Is This The age of the ‘Health Age’
While there are many ways of measuring various specific physical aspects of health such as body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, cholesterol and so on, up until now there hasn’t been a general holistic health metric. And while we’re encouraged to focus on things like lowering our intake of saturated fats and so on, we’re often apt to get caught up in the detail at the potential expense of the bigger picture.
Step forward the concept of the health age. Health age calculation looks at various things like fitness, lifestyle and nutrition in order to provide an overall illustration of general health (although it’s important to mention at this point that the factors used to produce your health age are only general signs, and are not a substitute for advice from a doctor).
If you’re calculating your health age using an online service, the calculator will be looking at the areas of wellbeing such as the following
- diet and nutrition
- exercise and fitness
Essentially, your ‘health age’ is the evaluation of factors from the above simplified into a single number – and that’s your health age.
So if for instance someone was aged 35 in life years and got the recommended exercise per week, stayed well within the alcohol limits, didn’t smoke, and demonstrated other healthy behaviours and habits – then it’s likely that they’d have a health age that would be below 35. And a look at all the lifestyle and exercise habits could even mean identifying areas for improvement – meaning an even lower health age.
Health age advantages
For people looking to improve overall health, looking at things from an overall perspective has advantages in that it means being able to identify areas for improvement, and keep track of progress with things like exercise, weight loss and so on.
In fact, one of the key motivational tools for losing weight that is often suggested is keeping a weight loss diary. Studies have indicated that simply by keeping a journal, people may find it easier to lose weight – of course just writing things down on its own isn’t the key here – it has to be in conjunction with positive changes to the diet itself. NHS Choices, commenting on one of the studies that was widely reported in the press, said:
a food diary may be beneficial as part of a wider intervention aimed at weight loss
However, NHS Choices qualify this by stating that “quantification of the amount of weight that may be lost from keeping a food diary alone” wasn’t something that could be accurately concluded from the study since it wasn’t “investigated as an isolated intervention”.
Going one step further than simply logging food consumption, there are now various resources available via apps and internet sites allowing people to get a more detailed picture of health. One such is the Employee Health Gateway, which was launched recently by AXA PPP business as a one-stop resource offering ways to help with healthy living and making positive lifestyle changes.
Resources like these are also useful for organisations who provide employee health benefits such as group cover and employee assistance programmes as part of their wellbeing strategy. By engaging staff and encouraging a focus on healthy living – everybody wins, with people feeling healthier and better able to cope with the days challenges and demonstrating the rule that an organisation’s best asset is its staff.
Health age and smartphones
Prior to the smartphone era, one of the difficulties in logging health actions was that it required a bit of effort to do so. And even if you did note down the data, there weren’t necessarily that many things that could then be done with it. And in a relatively short space of time that gap has been filled with an array of apps that can really help add effectiveness to a fitness schedule or new diet.
In the example mentioned above what we’re now seeing are applications that have a very interactive essence – you get to pick and choose the aspects you want to work with, and the application does all the smart stuff so you can see your progress at a glance. And it can go one step further too, by allowing you to plan your ideal week – walking to work, eating fewer calories – whatever you choose.
Lowering your health age – step by step
One of the best advantages of being able to log progress is that it means you can see how you’re developing over time – so even if you had never previously taken exercise, just a few non-drastic steps can form the basis for getting more exercise as time goes on. This means that it’s easier to take a sustained, more long-term view of things and this in itself can be an added source of motivation. Or if perhaps you’ve been neglecting the 5-a-day recommendations it means you can look at the improvements in your diet as you go along, and build on those improvements over time.
About the Author
Michael is a health blogger and keen football enthusiast who writes for a selection of health and wellbeing sites in the UK and abroad.