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How Old Are You? Making Sense of Metabolic Age

Age is just a number – you’ve heard the saying, but has it ever sunk in? Metabolic age gives you a new way to look at things when it comes to the question of how old you are. And – unlike chronological age – you can actually change your metabolic age!

What Is Metabolic Age?

When someone asks how old you are, chronological age – or the number of calendar years since birth – is the expected answer. Or, you might answer with how old you feel based on how youthful, spirited, and confident you are (example: maybe you’re turning 50 but you feel like a 25-year-old in terms of energy). Age is often used as a certain standard to assess where you are or where you should be in life. But there’s another way to look at the body’s aging process.

Grounded strictly in physiology, metabolic age considers how quickly your body burns calories – and compares that with other people your age. Even when we think we’re at rest (hanging out on the couch, for example), the body continues to burn calories, via digestion, breathing, pumping blood, etc. Your body’s basal metabolic rate (BMR) reflects how many calories your body burns while at rest.

It’s common for BMR to change throughout the different stages of life, slowing down (burning fewer calories during rest) progressively as the years roll on. Thus, younger folks tend to have a higher BMR than middle-aged folks and seniors. In simpler terms, young people tend to burn more calories at rest and show signs of a faster metabolism overall than older people.

How to Calculate BMR

Physicians take your BMR into account – as well as other factors like sex, height, and muscle tone – when calculating metabolic age. Here’s a very basic formula used to estimate metabolic age.

  • General Formula for Men: BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) + 5
  • General Formula for Women: BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) – 161

As a rule of thumb, the higher your BMR, the lower your metabolic age (or rather, the younger the age group your body correlates with).

How to Improve Metabolic Age

Metabolic age can be influenced by many things, including genetics, underlying conditions, diet, sleep patterns, and exercise habits. Unlike chronological age, you can change your metabolic age – to a certain extent.

Remember, better health is the goal, and you shouldn’t stress or become too emotionally invested in this process! When aiming for lower metabolic age, don’t think of it as a way of getting younger, but rather helping your body function more efficiently.

Here are a few healthy habits that can assist in lowering metabolic age:

  • Adopt regular exercise.
  • Cut back on processed foods.
  • Embrace a well-rounded diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
  • Build muscle with strength-training activities.
  • Manage or eliminate stress.
  • Try and get regular, high-quality sleep.

Metabolic age depends on many factors, so talk to your nutritionist or primary care provider if you want to determine your precise BMR and make responsible goals surrounding metabolic age.

It seems that the old saying is true: age really is just a number!


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Dr. Candice Seti


California-licensed Clinical Psychologist, Certified Nutrition Coach, and Certified Personal Trainer

Dr. Candice Seti

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