What is Physical Age ?

Physical or biological age is the effective age of your body in comparison to the chronological age. A body that's well looked after is likely to show less wear and tear and therefore be 'younger' than a body that isn't.

For example, for a 40 year old who eats a balanced diet, sleeps well and exercises regularly may have a body that is the same as the average 35 year old. Conversely, a 40 year old that eats junk food, smokes and has a sedentary lifestyle (sits down a lot) may show a body that's 45-50 years old.

physical age Time stops for no-one ! (Image:siaath/123RF)

Effect on the body

Aging changes everything about the body from things we can see such as grey hair and wringles to things we can't such as memory and internal organs. What we eat and how we live can play a significant role on how our body can control the aging process. We can't stop aging but many things, such as smoking, can increase the effective biological age of our body.

Different external factors will affect the body in different ways. For example, most people know that spending too much time in the sun can cause skin aging.

Factors that the Physical Age test considers

As this test is only ten questions long, there's a limit to it can ask. However, the key factors being diet and lifestyle are the focus. A poor diet which is high in fat and low in fruit and vegetables can increase fat levels. These

There are other external issues that can affect age such as body stressors. These would include a stressful workplace, illness or other life changes such as divorce. The test doesn't take all of these things into account as single one-off events can have different effects at different points. However, regular stress can build up and have a significant effect on long term health. Therefore, a healthy work environment is important and can make all the difference.

The Physical Age questions

Water consumption

Advice varies on these things - it always does - but it's estimated that most adults should drink around around one litre of water a day. You almost certainly need more, but you will get water from other sources including food and other drinks. This means, that you should consider drinking around 5-6 cups of water throughout the day. This isn't difficult if you have one in the morning, one at lunch and one in the evening. Just get a couple more in and you are done. In terms of the aging process, water consumption will help the body get rid of toxins, help keep weight under control and is vital for cardio-vascular (heart) health.

Breakfast

The old saying is 'breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper' to lose weight. Most people don't need to be quite so drastic but there's an argument for having a good healthy balance of food during the day. Starting with a healthy, fibre and fruit rich breakfast. A good breakfast will also reduce the desire to snack or eat less healthy food later in the day. However, there's clearly a balance and making sure it's not a fat laden fry-up is equally important.

Sedentary Lifestyle

If you consider how much time you spend sitting down including work, watching TV or even eating, it can be a large part of your day. Modern tests have shown that sitting down for large parts of your week can lead to being overweight, type 2 diabetes and even some types of cancer. Sitting slows the metabolism and reduces the heart rate. This, in turn, reduces the ability of the body to regulate blood sugar and break down fat. While many people can't avoid sitting down - it might be your job - then taking regular breaks can help. Getting up an moving around and stretching at least every hour can make a lot of difference.

Sleep

Sleep is vital to your overall health and wellbeing and most people don't get enough. In fact, it isn't just about the quantity of sleep, it's also about the quality of sleep. An average adult should get around 7-8 hours sleep a day. A teenager should get as much as 10 hours a day. During sleep, the body repairs itself and mind stores and processes information. Sleep helps us manage both the day before and prepares the body and mind for the next day. The effect on aging and increase in biological age from lack of sleep is significant.

Body weight

This is obvious and there's little point to expand here. Everyone knows that being overweight substantially increases the risk of health problems. Even people with a regular weight can have stores of inner fat so just because you may look the correct weight there's no excuse for not doing exercise to keep your inner self healthy.

Fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables contain the vitamins, minerals and fibre our bodies need to stay healthy and in good shape. A daily intake can reduce our physical age and biological age substantially. Until recently, five a day was seen as the guideline. Now, it's being regarded as the minumum and actually increasing to 10 a day should be the norm. There's two easy ways to do this. The first is regular fruit intake - include it as part of your breakfast. Second is to swap at least one, if not two meals a day from meat based to vegetable based. Consider how many meals you have a day or each week that contain meat. Perhaps you have a chicken sandwich for lunch and then spaghetti bolognese for dinner. That's two meat based meals in your day. Convert one of those to a vegetarian option and you may add one or two fruit and veg to your daily diet.

Smoking

Hardly worth mentioning. Smoking kills. It kills cells within your body with each cigarette and the effect on body aging and biological age is considerable. There probably aren't many faster ways to increase your physical age than smoking so if you want a younger healthy body - stop smoking !

Exercise

Staying active is vital to keeping your physical age low. There's substantial research into how much exercise is needed but everyone agrees that most people don't get enough. What is important here is not necessarily what exercise is taken. Many health authorities encourage people who don't exercise to do something. Therefore, even a brisk walk a day - perhaps swap that bus journey for a fifteen minute brisk walk - can make a substantial difference. Gets the heart rate going and will increase health and wellbeing.

Alcohol

Another one that's up for debate. There's evidence, for example, that wine taken in moderation can actually slow the aging process. Wine's anti-oxidants can help the body say young. But, as with all these things, it's about moderation.

Workplace satisfaction

You spend a large part of your life at work and being happy and relatively stress free can increase your health. Conversely, a constant stress environment can increase your physical age. Stress affects the body at a number of different levels.

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