I did it for science: Testing at Aberdeen wellness center


Intrepid reporter Joe Gould undergoes metabolic testing at the wellness center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. The Army plans to open 38 such clinics. (Photo by Tom Brown)

I remember thinking, “Fifteen minutes is a long time.” At least it seemed like a long time to be hooked up to a blue mask, make Darth Vader noises and lie alone in a room staring at the ceiling.

In the middle of reporting from Aberdeen Proving Ground Md., on the Army’s wellness centers — where preventative health tips are dispensed to soldiers and civilian employees — I volunteered to be hooked up to the clinic’s metabolic testing machine.

This was part an abbreviated version of a service available to soldiers and Army civilians. In an effort to cut the potential long-term health care costs of treating chronic illnesses of their employees, and Army is offering preventative care to help them get in shape.

The Army’s goal is to build 38 such clinics by 2017, which would offer tips for getting in shape and more. Read about it in Monday’s issue of Army Times.

For 15 minutes, the device would measure my breathing and at the end, I would know how many calories my body needs to live–and the amount of calories I would have to eat on a daily basis to lose weight.

I took off my shoes, the cheerful staff fitted me with the mask and I laid down. They left me alone in a room that was a relaxing shade of violet. I looked up at a single ceiling tile that held a translucent image of the sky and got mellow.

Between the “chromatherapy” and the rhythmic whir of the machine (timed to my breathing), I got relaxed, but I was still plenty self-conscious.

And then it was done.

As it turns out, I got some good news. They said my body mass index was in the normal range, as was my metabolic rate, and if I cut my caloric intake by 500 per day I’ll lose five pounds in four weeks. Definitely worth the visit.


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  1. Joe, I don’t want to sound negative, but a pound is roughly 3500 calories. So 5lbs x 3500 is 17500 divided by 500 a day is 35 days give or take a couple of days for error. Everyone would lose 5lbs in 4 weeks if they cut 500 cal a day. I think the real info here would be how many calories each individual needs per day to sustain current weight. Then tail off from there. Anyway Great Job. Jeff

  2. Just a follow up I understand they said Normal range but what’s the deviation for normal it seems to me that 3500 cal a pound would be a fixed variable.

    • Jeff, thanks for the comment. According to the stats I was given, I would need 1958 calories per day to sustain myself if I was just lying in a bed. However, my daily activity and exercise raise that to 2,576–that’s to maintain my current weight. To cut weight, the analysis suggests I consume 2,075 calories per day, but no less than that. I have to admit I don’t know how the science works, but maybe that clears things up?

  3. Pingback: He did it for science: Reporter’s testing at Aberdeen wellness center — Off Duty Plus

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