Men's Health

WHAT’S YOUR FITNESS AGE?

It’s 100 degrees in my Las Vegas garage gym as I crank through another round of squats and all-out air-bike intervals, trying to block out the creeping pain in my legs, lungs, and—well, hell—everywhere else. Just keep moving, I tell myself. Faster, faster. When the reps are done, I’m destroyed: I hit the hot concrete floor and begin hyperventilating and punching my legs to flush the pain. My German shorthaired pointer tilts his head and gives me a baffled look that crosses mammalian distinctions. “Dude, what are you doing?”

I began training like this, five hard hours a week, nearly two decades ago. Roughly 4,500 hours of my life have been spent in a state of exercise-induced discomfort, and I’m not always sure why. Men have a lot of reasons for working out. Vanity and performance are the big ones. But I quit giving a damn about my abs after I got married, and I really don’t care who I can beat in a pushup competition or organized footrace. The most recent line I’ve fed myself is that all this time sweating is good for my health. It’s going to give me more, better years on earth. But as I lie on the garage floor gasping, I ask myself: Why do I exercise so hard, and so often, at age 32? Is all this manic exercise worth it? And if it isn’t, then what does training for more, better years look like?

Thanks to research, we know that a person’s heart can have a different age from that of, say, his kidneys or his brain, which is to say different organs within a single human body can show varying degrees of stress and strain. (Which, if you think about it, is really all age is: a manifestation of how much stress or strain your body has endured and exhibits.) But we also know that for the average guy—let’s call him “you”—lung health and mental speed peak around your mid-20s. Beginning at age 30, your muscle strength and size start decreasing by about 3 to 8 percent

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