Taking fitness to the NExT level
By Will Sloan
February 27, 2015

There comes a time in a man’s life when he has to look himself in the mirror, put aside his excuses and rationalizations, and take a dark voyage into his soul. He has to ask himself a simple question with deep ramifications. The question is: “Am I in shape?”

It was a cold February morning when I went to the NeXT (Nutrition & Exercise Testing) Lab in Kerr Hall West for an honest assessment of my body composition. Stripped down to the all-too-tight boxer briefs I purchased specifically for this occasion, I stepped on the scale and was told that, at 6 feet tall, I weighed 168.2 pounds. I was basically, roughly, technically, more-or-less in decent condition… or so I thought.

But the scale can only tell you so much. From there, I was told to step into the Bod Pod – a machine that would offer a more detailed analysis of my body. “It uses your body density to calculate what your body fat percentage will be,” technician Jennifer Hayden, told me. “Because muscle and fat have different densities, it will be able to calculate based on your total body density what your fat percentage will be.”

As I stepped into the Bod Pod, I became acutely aware of the slight paunch that has developed around my midsection. Can it be that my once ferocious metabolism, able to make short work of whatever deep-fried greasy food I threw at it, is beginning to grow weary from overuse?

The results: my fat mass represents 26.9 per cent of my total body mass. Anywhere between 21 and 30 per cent for men is considered “excess fat” (“indicates an excess accumulation of fat over time”), whereas more than 30 per cent is “risky” (“high body fat”), and 13-20 per cent is “moderately lean” (“fat level is acceptable for good health”). In other words: I’m well on my way to trouble.

“Beyond the scale, the average consumer probably doesn’t know a lot,” said Nick Bellissimo, Ryerson nutrition professor and creator of the lab. “The scale gives you a piece of the picture; the services we offer here provide you with a more complete picture.”

The Bod Pod is one of several services the NeXT Lab offers to measure your fitness. The Maximal Aerobic Fitness Test uses a treadmill to measure your energy expenditure and determine how aerobically/physically fit you are. The Submaximal Fitness Test measures your functional fitness level determined by the point at which your breathing become labored during incremental exercise. The tests answer everything from how many calories you burn to digest food, to your blood pressure (the good news: mine is normal). There is also a parallel research component, funded by money generated from the services.

Created in partnership between the School of Nutrition and Ryerson Athletics and run with the help of nutrition students, the NExT Lab draws from across the academic spectrum. “We are an interdisciplinary lab,” said Bellissimo. “We use an interdisciplinary approach combining principles from nutritional sciences, exercise physiology, , and physics. . The benefit to students is that the experiential learning is far greater than if they focused on only one discipline.”

Bellissimo drew inspiration from the late professor Robert C. Goode, a mentor during his PhD, who inspired him to make lab research accessible to the general public. “This suite of tools is in one facility is unheard of in Canada,” he added. “It will serve as a benchmark for [athletic] training, and will inspire them to stay motivated.” The lab is also open to the Ryerson community and the general public.

The NExT lab has been pilot testing for the past few weeks, with an official launch scheduled for February 27. For information on how to book an appointment, visit ndlabs.ca/nextlab/.