2012.12.05 It hurts to be young

Written by David Green.

Last week’s column about the need for physical activity was preceded by this one—just 20 years ago in 1992.

 By David Green

How come I feel so tired today? I’ve got the body of a man three years younger than my real age.

Actually, according to an article in “Walking” magazine, I’m no longer 42; my real age is not 39.2.

“Walking” is a magazine my mother passes on to me. My parents are walkers and are probably a good 10 years younger than their birth certificates would indicate. I don’t think they took the “What’s Your Real Age?” test in “Walking,” but they would probably score well if they did.

According to the article, human beings area aging more slowly that in the past. Changes in the body and mind once blamed on “old age” are actually a matter of disease and disuse, according to current research. In the absence of disease, says a scientist, the body is limited only by a person’s level of physical conditioning.

The test begins with a three-mile walk to check out aerobic capacity. Our family testing didn’t begin there because it was 8 o’clock Saturday night and we decided to wait until daylight.

Instead we began with Test 2: Strength. Lie in your back. Have a partner hold down your ankles. Now do as many full sit-ups (elbows touching knees) as possible in 60 seconds.

I struggled to 31 and I probably couldn’t have done another one even if I were given an additional 15 more seconds. My partner looked at the chart and announced, “David, you’re excellent!”

Watch me do an excellent vomit, I answered. I tried to get up but I felt as though my middle was missing.

Ben made it to 34 and quickly stood up smiling. “You’re an excellent 40-year-old man,” Colleen told him. That’s a big jump from 10 years old. I was thinking back to seventh grade when I reached 125 in gym class one day. Not in a minute, of course. I think Curt Jones went another 50.

Colleen’s 27 put her at above average, but she muttered something about putting herself out of commission for a week. Rosanna, age 6, came out an average 50-year-old woman.

Part two involved push-ups. There was no time limit; just do ’em ’til you die, instructed my partner. I died at 21. I was only one away from excellent, but it doesn’t matter much when you’re crying.

I lost two and one-half years on the strength test (39.5 years old), just one sit-up away from losing a full five years.

Next comes flexibility. The first test is the modified sit-and-reach where the torturer makes you reach forward from a sitting position and hold it for two seconds. A fourteen-inch reach took five years off my age.

Then came total body rotation involving a yardstick taped to the wall, chalk marks on the floor and two-second screams of pain. My first try put me at about 90 years old. We read the confusing instructions again and tried once more. I’m young again! I’m in my 20s and it hurts. Flexibility score: 34.5 years.

Part three tested coordination. Balancing with your eyes closed. Walking forward and backward on an imaginary line. Bringing fingers to nose with eyes closed. Keep a tissue close by.

If you can do all these tests OK, your score is your regular age. If you exercise regularly at least twice a week, you can subtract five years. Currently, I’m not that regular so I stay at 42 for that part of the test.

Next came mental agility. I was above average, average and excellent on the three tests, so I was able to knock a couple years off there.

Now I’ve just returned from the high school track, expending tremendous effort to learn that I’m above-average for a fast three-mile walk (38:47). That’s only 17 seconds off the pace of an above-average 25-year-old; I guess everybody should be able to walk fast.

My first mile was slower than my last two, so I know I could improve if I tried again. But to tell you the truth, I don’t want to.

Averaging all my tests together, I’m no older than Jack Benny at 39.2 years. It’s nice that I’ve cut a few years off, but I just don’t remember it hurting this bad to be 39.

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