“Middle age.” What the heck does that term even mean? Who came up with it, anyway?

This subject was a topic of discussion in my spin class last week. We decided that we do not like it. I mean, if it really means what it says, then my mother would have been middle-aged at 27.

“Middle age” is too general and subjective. I feel like I probably semi-qualify at this point in my life, but no way am I going to live to be 116 years old.

Really and truly, middle age should be around 35-45, since most people’s life spans are around 70-90 years old. I highly doubt many 35-year-olds consider themselves middle-aged.

It is just too broad of a term to even matter. I vote we dismiss that term and bring in a new one. “Fitness age.”

What is your fitness age? Mine is 35. That has a better ring to it! But it also means I put in the work to qualify for that fitness age. That’s OK. I am willing to put in that work to get that result.

The questions involved in coming to the magical number of fitness age are things such as height, weight, waist circumference, education (there are many studies that say people with higher education degrees live longer), resting pulse and ethnicity, to name a few.

So how fit are you overall? Your aerobic fitness is a good place to start. The best way to know that is to measure your VO2 max. VO2 max is a measurement of your body’s ability to utilize oxygen. This is usually done in a lab setting at a hospital or a university while wearing a mask and exercising on a treadmill. How efficiently you get oxygen to your body can make a huge difference in your health. You can improve this by upping your aerobic capacity. Do something that brings your heart rate up and challenges your heart (with your doctor’s approval of course). Regularly. Low cardio-respiratory fitness can bring on lots of physiological problems. Get out and go. Get moving. Change it up often. Find something you love and do it!

There is just too much information out in the world that backs up the thought that aging folks need exercise more than ever. They need strength training too. How strong are you? Not body-building-type strong. Functional strong. Make sure you are lifting weights to the point of fatigue. You should be hitting the weights 2-4 times a week.

Being stronger will help us be more functional and protect our bodies for longer. Practice life skill movements too. Example: Can you stand up by yourself from the floor if you fall? If the answer is no, then get on it. Practice doing so, because when you really have to, you will be glad you practiced. Stay functional.

What is your fitness age? You can find out on the website This test is based on research done by the K. G. Jebsen Center of Exercise at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. There are many such questionnaires on the internet, but I like this one because it is short and sweet.

Get moving and stay moving. All ways, all days. Remember: Sitting is the body’s enemy! Bring your fitness age well below your chronological age and you will feel better, look better and not feel or be middle-aged!

Ann Angell is a certified instructor and personal trainer and  manager of the Oxford YMCA. Her fitness column appears the third Sunday of each month.