HomeHealth‘Fitness age’ and tips for better sleep: The week in Well+Being

‘Fitness age’ and tips for better sleep: The week in Well+Being

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Happy January! This week we’re writing about how well your body is aging and tips for better sleep, plus we’ve got our weekly “joy” snack. But before that …

This week’s must-reads:

Whether we are 30, 60 or 90, we all want to age well and stay healthy as long as possible. I was surprised to learn that there is a simple, scientifically valid calculator that can help you assess how well your body is aging relative to your chronological age.

Gretchen Reynolds, our Your Move columnist, explains that the calculator measures your “fitness age.” Fitness age is a well-studied scientific concept that uses a few simple health measures to estimate whether your body is biologically older — or younger — than your chronological age.

Before you check out the fitness age calculator, here’s the information it will ask for:

  • Your sex and chronological age.
  • Your height, converted to centimeters.
  • Your weight, converted to kilograms.
  • Your resting heart rate. You can easily determine this using a smartwatch or a 15-second pulse test. Count your pulse for 15 seconds and multiply by four.
  • You’ll also need an honest estimate of how hard and often you exercise.

If you don’t exercise much or are overweight, you may be shocked at the answer you get. If you’re 50 based on calendar years, you conceivably could have a fitness age of anywhere from about 25 to as old as 75, studies show. It all depends on what shape you’re in.

To learn more about fitness age — and to check out the calculator — you’ll need to read the full article.

Try this sleep experiment

Sleep drive, also called “homeostatic sleep drive” or “sleep pressure,” is one of two key physiological determinants of propensity to sleep. We accumulate sleep drive over the course of the day, and it only begins to dissipate when we sleep at night, writes Lisa Strauss, a clinical psychologist who specializes in sleep disorders.

We asked Strauss for her best sleep tips. Her top tip involves sleep drive. She writes:

Try a short-term experiment to compress your sleep. The purpose of this short-term experiment is to deepen your sleep and limit the number of wakings and the duration of wakeful periods in the middle of the night. It should not leave you sleep-deprived.

For several consecutive nights (up to two weeks), adopt fixed, easily sustained guardrails on your sleep (for example, 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.). This is not the familiar advice to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Go to sleep when you feel ready and wake when you like, as long as no sleep occurs outside the guardrails.

Most of my patients choose a seven- or 7½-hour permissible interval. Don’t try to alter your circadian rhythm with this technique — so, for example, night owls will start and end later. Don’t sleep outside the stably timed bookends even if you have a bad night.

You can always compress more (or less) in fine-tuning experiments. If successful, you can ultimately implement the schedule a little less strictly, ideally without waking to an alarm clock.

Strauss has more sleep tips related to circadian rhythm, sleep hygiene, overthinking at night and pre-bed activity. You can find all five tips by reading the full article.

The Well+Being New Year’s Tuneup

In case you missed it, here are all five articles from our New Year’s Tuneup. I hope you read our daily newsletter last week, with lots of extra tips and tricks for better health this year. Let us know how we did, if you enjoyed the tuneup, and if you have other ideas for special reports you would like from the Well+Being team.

Are you fit for your age? Try our New Year’s tuneup to find out.

Look for these 9 red flags to identify food that is ultra-processed

Tune up your body: A health checklist for every age

Forget FOMO. Embrace JOMO to discover the joy of missing out.

Your brain needs more rest than you’re giving it. These 9 tips can help.

Here are a few things that brought us joy this week.

Want to know more about “joy” snacks? Our Brain Matters columnist Richard Sima explains. You can also read this story as a comic.

Please let us know how we are doing. Email me at wellbeing@washpost.com. You can also find us on TikTok.



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