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Measuring health at the GWU Weight Management and Human Performance Lab

George Washington University Master’s student Paul Moquin monitors Cliff Russell, ex-Washington Redskin wide receiver as he runs a VO2 max test on the treadmill at the GWU Exercise Physiology Lab in Ashburn. - Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Ben Hancock
More than 11 months ago a woman stepped into the office of Todd Miller, director of George Washington University's Weight Management and Human Performance Lab. She wanted him to help her get into better shape.

Miller ran a few tests and gave her a quick road map to work on her body.

About a week ago the woman returned to the lab. The same tests were run. She had gained a pound.

"If I told somebody 'here's what I want you to do. Do these diet changes and do these exercise changes.' When I told them that they were 139.8, and then two months later I said, 'How much do you weigh?' And they said 140.9. What would they think of me? They'd think 'you're nuts I gained a pound.'"

In reality the woman was slimmer and more fit than when she came in two months earlier. So why the weight gain?

To understand one's health there is more than just weight to take into consideration.

Miller pulled up the chart of the woman he had seen. Her name and any other information that may have been used to identify her were stripped away.

The woman's body fat percentage was down 3 percent, her fat mass was four pounds lower and her lean muscle mass was five pounds higher.

Holding up his fist Miller said a pound of fat is "about the size of my fist." Then mimicking something about the the size of a volleyball with his hands he said, "a pound of fat is that big."

This is an important distinction to make because many people who diet don't readily see the results of their hard work on a scale and may get discouraged.

The tests Miller ran in the beginning provided a necessary baseline for comparison.

In a manner of minutes, Miller had used his DEXA machine to measure the woman's body fat percentage, lean muscle mass and other biometrics.

Another machine measured the speed of her metabolism, or how quickly she used energy at rest.

Miller used the numbers the tests generated to put together a fitness road map.

The data shows how many calories she needed to eat in order to lose or gain weight.

The dietician Miller employs, Stephanie Mull, could see if there was an eating regimen that could help speed the woman's metabolism, and also help with energy and hunger.

He also stated that much of the problem with fad diets and yo-yo weight loss is dieters are all about following a plan, with little understanding of the plan or their own bodies.

"A lot of people at one point or another in their lives have wondered 'what's my metabolism or how many calories do I burn?' " said Miller.

By giving people those numbers Miller believes they can be more empowered and confident about their health.

The Weight Management and Human Performance Lab at GWU is not just available to those hoping to lose weight, however.

Athletes anywhere on the competitive scale from professional football players and GWU basketball players to what Miller calls "weekend warriors" and high school students can come into the lab to get performance testing done.

More rigorous examinations like a maximal oxygen consumption, or VO2 max test can be ordered.

These tests use a breathing apparatus, much like the ones on Gatorade commercials, to figure out how much oxygen is breathed in and out.

Users run on a treadmill or cycle on a bike for up to 20 minutes with the mask.

Oxygen, being a precious commodity in endurance sports, allowing elite athletes to run longer distances or lift more weight, means monitoring that intake can tell a lot about an athlete.

The test gauges overall physical fitness level and can provide benchmarks to decide the effectiveness of a training regimen.

Whether people are high performance athletes or just regular Joes looking to take charge of their health, Miller thinks the key to results is understanding their body and maximizing the knowledge in training or dieting.

The GWU Weight Management and Human Performance Lab is open to the public.

For pricing information or to learn more about setting up an appointment, contact Miller at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or call 571-553-0237.


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