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Don’t be normal… be healthy instead!

Don’t be normal… be healthy instead! 960 498 Janie

The 1000 Norms Project (http://sydney.edu.au/health-sciences/research/1000-norms.shtml) is a ground-breaking research project currently generating great national and international interest. An initiative of leading researchers at The University of Sydney, the aim of the study is to improve our understanding of the physical capabilities of the healthy population across the lifespan.

Last Saturday, Geoff and I volunteered to take part in the study and went to the University Campus at Lidcombe and were put through a range of physical tests. These included strength, mobility, balance, dexterity and fitness tests.

Before we go into our experience, here is what the 1000 Norms project was measuring.

What does it mean to be healthy?

Health is difficult to define and measure. There is a great deal of variation in the healthy population- no two individuals are the same. Yet we need to know what it means to be healthy in order to diagnose and manage disease.

Physical capability, or the ability to perform the physical activities of day-to-day life, is an important indicator of health across all stages of development and ageing. Health professionals use a range of different tests to measure physical capability, including tests of strength, balance, mobility, and more. Results from these tests are used to identify an impairment or problem, when individual scores are compared to ‘normal’ values. However at present there is little information regarding age-specific ‘normal values’ for many common tests of physical capability.

About 1000 Norms Project

We are currently measuring the physical capabilities of 1000 healthy individuals across the lifespan to help us identify the range of ‘normal’ variation in the healthy population. This information will be used to generate a global database of ‘normal values’. We are also collecting information regarding lifestyle and well-being as well as investigating the ‘gene for speed’ in the healthy population. We hope to better understand the processes of healthy ageing and development, and the link between genetics and physical capability.

1000-Norms_3-e1397006453659We were tested by 2 very pleasant and obviously well-educated researchers. The test took around 2 hours and we actually had quite a lot of fun (especially beating Geoff in the walking fitness test)! We were also surprised that the study included NO input on sleep, nutrition, stress, mind-set or any of the other factors that contribute to good health. On this basis it really is a physical capability test, not a “health” test.

At the conclusion of the testing, we were informed that it was unlikely that our results would be included in the data pool. We were classified as “outliers” or in other words we were “not normal”. We were too far outside what they were seeing as being normal. We were not really sure how to feel about this.

Both of us broke several strength records and also surprised the researchers with our balance, reaction times, dexterity and fitness. However, here is the thing that we cannot get our head around – we think that we are very normal. We don’t think that we are especially strong, agile, fit or coordinated. In fact at times we felt like we struggled a bit in some of the tests. And at times in the course of our normal daily lives we wonder if we could be better physically prepared.

If this is the case – what is normal? Is the study going to determine that normal is not being able to interact with your physical environment in a capable manner? That weak, slow, uncoordinated and lacking balance is normal?

Upon reflection, we agreed that what probably made the difference is that we are reasonably strong for our age. Why we came to this conclusion is that we did very well in all the physical tests even though we had not trained for them in any way whatsoever. But we train generally for strength and we know that strength is regarded as the basis of all other physical capabilities.

We scored well in not only the strength tests but the balance tests, the jumping tests, in generating power, coordination/dexterity and in reaction time and the fitness/endurance tests. So it must be because we have a certain amount of absolute strength. And that amount must be quite a bit more than “normal”.

Inadvertently, this experience has further confirmed what we already think we know. That maintaining your strength as you age is critically important. And not only to doing “strong stuff” but to all the other factors that dictate physical capability in life and therefore quality of life.

At Thrive Health we believe that ageing well is something that is within reach of every human being. Eating healthily and maintaining physical capability are things that everyone can do.

We are told by the medical establishment that getting older inevitably means physical decay. You are just getting old we hear. That is nonsense. We all have the ability to extend our physical capabilities and improve the quality of our lives by taking control of our health.

Fight the good fight. Maintain your strength. Eat real food.

Please don’t be “normal”.

Contact us to find out more about getting healthy instead of being normal!