Last week, I was invited along to Nuffield Health in Reading to have a Health MOT. Nuffield Health is a chain of gyms/health clubs but there’s a difference: they have close links with members’ GPs and have their own in-house GPs, physiologists, physiotherapists and nutritionists. So, as at any gym, the focus is on improving members’ health, fitness and body composition but it’s done as a team approach, with every member looked after by a kind of umbrella care-team of health professionals as well as their PT or coach.
Nuffield Health MOTs are 12-point tests which all members receive (when they join, and then again at regular intervals). They give a great insight into overall health and act as a great incentive for people to stay on track, improve and get healthier. Importantly, the Health MOTs highlight any health concerns and, if necessary, the Nuffield folk can then suggest that people go to their GP to fully diagnose and tackle the underlying health issue.
As the invitation said, “even the fittest people like to know more about their health and the reasons behind things…” and I couldn’t agree more. I’m always keen to know how my body is getting along. Is it coping with the stresses I throw at it? For all that it’s lean, muscular, and fed with good food, is it actually healthy? Or do any of the things I do actually cause me to be less healthy than if I was more moderate in my approach to health, wellness, nutrition and fitness?
Kirsty Minter, Wellbeing Advisor at the Nuffield Health Centre in Reading, was the lady who would tell me.
“The Health MOT helps our members to monitor the effectiveness of their exercise programme by looking at 12 measurements which include cholesterol, blood sugar, systolic blood pressure, aerobic fitness, weight and waist-to-hip ratio. Members are also asked about their smoking, alcohol, water and sleep habits,” she told me.
I’ve had most of those tests before, and check my resting HR often (usually in bed in the morning as opposed to in the afternoon after having a cup of coffee a few hours earlier… whoops…) but I’d never had my cholesterol of blood sugar done.
Kirsty ran through the test with me, which took about 45 minutes. First there was a detailed questionnaire about my diet, fitness and lifestyle. Then
BMI is in the healthy weight range (I had worried that it might tell me I was overweight, simply because I carry so much more muscle mass than the average person)
Waist-to-hip ratio is “moderate risk” but, as Kirsty explained, we have to look beyond the numbers. Quite clearly, at a couple of weeks out from a bodybuilding comp, I am not carrying excess body fat. But (and I don’t need a Health MOT to tell me this!) my natural shape is not curvy. I’m straight up and down, with not much of a waist and not much in the way of bum and hips, either. So, whether I’m large or small, crunch the numbers of my waist-to-hip ratio and you’re always going to get a warning sign. Kirsty assured me I was quite OK, though. I joked that I’d come back again in my off-season with a big bum and take the test again!
Blood pressure is 102 (systolic)/58 (diastolic) – both towards the lower end of average but not worryingly so. Less than 90/60 is “low”. That explains why I sometimes feel a bit lightheaded if I stand up too quickly.
My Vo2 max was calculated at 54/ml/kg/min – off the scale *grin* I’ve had this tested before, years and years ago… I should try to dig the numbers out, because I’d be very interested to see how a switch from lots of cardio, and endurance training/racing, to lots of weight training, and sprints/intervals has affected my Vo2 max.
Resting HR was a very pleasing 44 bpm. I had the test in the afternoon and had drunk two cups of coffee earlier that day, so was fully expecting it to be deceptively high. Mind you, I did practically fall asleep with the HR monitor on!
Total cholesterol was 4.06 mmol/L. Kirsty explained that some cholesterol is essential, but high levels can lead to health problems. A reading over over 5.0 mmol/L tends to ring warning bells and anything over 6.5 is considered high.
Blood glucose came out at 4.1 mmol/L (both this test and the cholesterol test were done by a pin-prick test on the finger, like when you go to give blood and they test your iron levels). My reading was in the good range (less than 5.8) whereas anything between 5.8-7.99 is borderine raised and anything above 8 is considered high. Of course, people with diabetes need to be aware of the levels which are appropriate for them, so they can manage their diabetes accordingly. I don’t have diabetes, so these guidelines apply to me.
Hydration was excellent (as I’d expect!) as was alcohol consumption (zero – living the dream, people, living the dream!) The caffeinated drinks section of the report was a gentle reminder to take it easy, particularly if I’m finding it difficult to wind down or sleep. My sleep levels are good (hooray, at long last!), although the quality could still be improved.
My overall health score was 84.
Competitive person that I am, I asked Kirsty how I could improve it. She said there were no direct recommendations, since none of the individual tests gave her any cause for concern. So, for me, it would be a simple case of making small improvements in a few areas: less coffee, better sleep, even lower cholesterol or even higher V02 max. Or, I suppose, the sudden development of an hourglass figure. Not going to happen I’m afraid (I wish – in the meantime I’ll make do with a much improved lat-spread to trick the bodybuilding judges into thinking I do actually have a waist… !)
Nuffield Health support members clinically according to their specific goals:
– Individuals who have needed weight management advice have lost, on average, 2% of their body mass,” – 25% of all overweight customers have lost more than 5% of their body mass (a level likely to have a clinically significant impact on health)
– Of the 612 members identified as having elevated blood glucose levels (suggesting possible diabetes or pre-diabetes), Nuffield have helped over 90% to lower their levels and a 81% to reduce their levels below 6.1mmol/L
– Of the 5243 members with potentially elevated cholesterol levels, 61% have managed to lower their levels, whilst 26% have managing to actually decrease levels to below the recommended level (of 5.00mmol/L)
– Similar success stories for blood pressure include reductions for 76% of those with elevated systolic blood pressure (and clinical improvements in 51% to below the recommended level of 140mmHg)
Have you had these tests? Is there any particular area of health you’re working on improving at the moment?
Thanks for seeing me, Nuffield Health!
Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.