Analysing the dad-bod: Why this health assessment gave me a nasty shock
One part of the report stood out so much it nearly slapped me in the face
I’m stood on the belt of a top of the range treadmill with a heart monitor attached to my chest and a Bane-style mask strapped on my face.
No, I’ve not ditched a career in journalism to become an elite athlete – far from it – my body is being analysed by a new Devon business that wants to open people’s eyes to the obesity epidemic that is gripping the nation.
As a father of two young children with very little time to exercise or prepare meals, it’s fair to say I am not in the best shape of my life.
I used to run half marathons, cycle and surf regularly, as well as taking care of what I ate.
(Image: Rob Tibbles)
But having children changes ones priorities and for at least a year now I have been rocking what I have affectionately described as a “dad-bod”.
So when retired GP Andrew Latham of The Woodland Clinic in East-the-Water, Bideford, offered me the chance to analyse my health and fitness, I was quick to take him up.
Nestled in hidden but beautiful location, the clinic is run by Andrew and his GP daughter Claire Lynch.
And while they are quick to say that the service they offer is not medical, it’s fair to say their advice is very well-informed.
Before my trip to the clinic I am asked to complete a questionnaire about my diet, exercise, medical history and general health – all of which is taken into account for my health assesment.
On the day of the assessment, I arrive at the clinic which boasts several state-of-the-art pieces of equipment – including an underwater treadmill and elite endless pool.
Andrew starts with a thorough look at my overall health by analysing my blood pressure, a urine sample, weight, height and waist measurements, body composition, grip strength and circulation.
As well as this I also have an ECG to monitor my heart and undertake a spirometry lung function test – during which I have to breath out as hard as I can for a long period into a tube attached to a computer.
Joel Cooper during the spirometry lung function test (Image: Rob Tibbles)
Next comes the main event – what’s known in the business as a peak V02 test.
This is a graded exercise test on a treadmill during which the intensity of the exercise is progressively increased.
Throughout the test, a mask strapped to my face measures the volume of oxygen I consume whilst exercising at my maximum effort.
This tests my heart and lung function as well as my circulation to transport oxygen to muscles and their ability to utilize it.
The speed of the treadmill increases my 1mph every minute and I am told to keep running until I cannot run any more. I managed just over 9 minutes.
After a shower and a cup of tea, Claire and Andrew bid me farewell while they analysed my results – it felt a bit nerve wracking.
The next day Andrew arranged to meet me to discuss my written report in person, allowing me to ask any “silly” questions about the tests or his advice.
Looking through the print out of my health assessment I was generally pretty happy (and surprised to learn that my grip is actually stronger on my left hand).
Joel Cooper wears a face mask which analyses his bodies oxygen use during the peak V02 test (Image: Rob Tibbles)
But one element of the report stood out so much it nearly slapped me in the face – there in bold red type it said ‘Grade 1 Obesity’.
As someone who enjoys outdoor activities, I had always considered myself a generally fit and healthy person.
And while I was comforted to know that my heart, lungs, kidneys and circulation are all in good order, knowing that my weight, body fat and waist measurements made me technically obese was a HUGE wake up call.
Andrew recommended weight loss of around 12kgs to get to my ideal weight that offered some interesting advice
He said: “Obesity reduces life expectancy by between two and four years, with an average of eight years of ill health prior to death. It also causes at least 14 types of cancer.
“While you currently feel in excellent health, this would be a good time to look at your overall lifestyle.
“If I were you I would initially address my snacking with processed food and try to gradually introduce more vegetables which have considerable health benefits.
“Activity is a ‘miracle-drug’ for health and variety is important to avoid monotony or boredom.
Retired GP Andrew Latham takes Joel Cooper’s blood pressure (Image: Rob Tibbles)
“Any intensity is beneficial, though High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Short Sprint Interval Training (SSIT)do increase risk of injury at least initially.
“Brisk walking and the use of stairs are often overlooked in health regimes but are extremely important.”
As someone who was no stranger to exercise, this health assessment really opened my eyes and made me realise just how much I had let things get away from me.
You don’t wake up one day and realise you are overweight, it happens gradually over time and can be really hard to catch before it gets out of hand – particularly for people with busy lifestyles.
Having the opportunity to analyse my health and fitness in this holistic way has been a very interesting experience and one I would certainly want to follow-up and do again.
A Woodland Clinic Health Assessment like the one I undertook costs £300.
For more information visit www.thewoodlandclinic.co.uk.