Most of us think about going to the doctor when we’re sick in order to get better. But what about checking in with your doctor when you’re well in order to enhance your health and actively try to prevent some of those acute illness or chronic injury visits in the future?
That’s exactly the concept behind ZOOM+Performance, one of three primary care platforms offered by ZOOM+Performance Health Insurance, a company right here in Portland, Ore., that’s committed to revolutionizing the American healthcare system. What started in 2006 (under the name ZoomCare) as state-of-the-art neighborhood urgent care clinics in Oregon, Washington and Idaho is now called ZOOM+ (as of 2015) and has transformed into a complete healthcare system with health insurance built in.
What’s brilliant, though, is that it goes beyond what is traditionally offered in healthcare delivery systems to play a critical role in preventing chronic illnesses that require costly interventions down the road. ZOOM+Performance, in particular, caught my eye because it’s geared toward people who want to optimize their human performance using food, movement and relationship as medicine.
ZOOM+’s mantra is “Twice the health at half the cost and 10 times the delight.” So when they invited me in last week for one of their signature wellness assessments, I decided to put that mission to the test.
After checking in and filling out a few forms, Dr. Natasha Kassam whisked me off to a private room to get my vitals and take my health history. She white-boarded my information as we walked through current conditions, concerns and goals together (i.e. have a healthy baby and resume my normal level of activity when it’s safe!).
She explained that ZOOM+Performance’s assessment is aimed at helping people improve athletic performance, mental-focus and creative energy. After doing some deep brain, cell and body tests, including VO2 Max, Neuroagility and Body Comp (typically there are some labs, as well, but not for the purposes of this visit), we’d regroup and she would prescribe food and movement to help me achieve my potential.
Brain & Nervous System Function
First up was Heart Rate Variability testing, which measures the balance and function of the two branches of the autonomic nervous system. A balanced system, meaning both the “fight or flight” and “rest and digest” sides are responding equally well, supports optimal cognitive and physical function.
I sat down in a big, comfy chair while Dr. Kassam hooked me up with a monitor that attached painlessly to my ear lobe. Math problems and puzzled flashed on the screen for a few seconds each, followed by a breathing exercise which helped set a baseline for measuring the ebb and flow of my two branches.
From there, we moved to another room with an alien-looking egg-shaped vessel in it called the BodPod. The BodPod is considered the Gold Standard in body comp tests because it delivers a highly-accurate measurement of body fat percentage using air displacement and body density as markers.
British Olympic diver and television personality Tom Daley testing his body composition (courtesy of BodPod)
Although we knew my results would be skewed, it’s completely safe — even for preggos — so I decided to give it a shot to get a feel for the experience. After stripping down to my skivvies and donning a swim cap, Dr. Kassam locked me in (don’t worry; there’s an emergency release in case you get claustrophobic) for two rounds of measurements.
It was quick and painless, although I will admit it takes some getting used to! Expect to hear a rush of air and some thumping, plus you’ll feel a bit of pressure in your ears; but just sit still, stay calm and relax — it’s over before you know it.
Next up was my favorite part of the session: Neuroagility. Thanks to infrared sensors, you get to interact with the neuroagility wall, which is an experimental assessment of neuromuscular coordination and gross-motor ability.
Step one is to stand in front of the wall to get everything calibrated. Step two is a short practice run; it takes a moment or two to get a feel for how the system responds to your movements. And step three is the actual test where you’ll have a few seconds to “touch” orbs that appear in different positions on the wall.
You feel like you’re in a video game, and as the orbs appear and disappear more rapidly toward the end, you’ll be running back and forth like a crazy cat trying to follow a pointer on the wall. Now try doing this while pregnant — i.e. carrying extra weight, off balance and out of breath — and, well, you get the picture.
For the final test, we went over to a bike that was wired up to a machine for the VO2 Max assessment. ZOOM+’s cycle test is a quick way for them to get the calculation, which is an indicator of aerobic efficiency and endurance.
Dr. Kassam instructed me to pedal slowly and steadily on the bike while keeping an eye on one of the metrics (I forget which one it was — most likely cadence — but my instructions were to keep it around 60 despite changes in resistance). Meanwhile, they’d be tracking my heart rate and other stats to come up with a final score.
My Results & Recommendations
Brain & Nervous System Function: Although I was able to bring my system into equilibrium during the breathing exercise, the “stress” of the first part of the test threw me more into the “fight of flight” mode, so Dr. Kassam recommended daily meditation or mindful breathing to bring more awareness to my breath.
She recommended some useful apps and exercises, in addition to trying out rhythmic breathing while walking, running and biking in order to raise my performance threshold when under stress. As far as I’m concerned, she nailed this right on the head because it’s something that I currently neglect as part of my training regimen, but could help me perform better going forward.
Body Composition: Dr. Kassam warned me that this measurement wouldn’t be valid due to me being pregnant, and it was. I guess the machine doesn’t account for all things baby because I fell into the “Excess Fat” category, whoops!
But even though these results were skewed, it was well worth the experience so I know what it’ll be like next time around. I’m planning on going back post-baby to check in again so I can get some baseline metrics and make a game plan for getting back in shape.
Neuroagility: Oddly enough, despite having to lug around 15-20 extra pounds which left me feeling less than agile, I was able to score in the “Good” range here. I’ll be interested to see, though, if I can make it into the “Excellent” category post-baby when I feel a little less inhibited with my movement.
VO2 Max: Yes, I know I’m pregnant. And, yes, I know my heart rate is elevated, my lung capacity feels like it’s decreased and my endurance is lower due to these factors, as well as not being able to work out as hard or as long as I’m used to.
But I’ve got to admit that the “Average” rating here was, personally, a bit of a bummer. Of all the metrics, I figured it wouldn’t be too far of from my normal range…but I keep reminding myself that it’s all about the big picture right now.
And it just goes to show you how much of an impact pregnancy has on all of your systems. Don’t get me wrong; I’m more than happy to be able to divert any extra oomph toward Baby H, although I’ve got to admit that I’m excited to get back to work on this when I’m able to safely start training again!
After my tests were completed, Dr. Kassam and I met back up in the first room to discuss results, as well as her recommendations for moving forward. Of course, since things are a little out of whack at the moment, I wasn’t expecting anything revolutionary in terms of next steps; however, her insight really impressed me.
In addition to the mindfulness and breathing awareness exercises, she suggested that I try alternating in a high-dose probiotic with my usual probiotic supplement. The ideas is to flush and re-populate my GI tract — not only to aid with digestion, but also to keep my system in tip-top shape prior to delivery.
Dr. Kassam was also enthusiastic about the idea of adding gyrotonic workouts to my regimen. Gyrotonic utilizes three planes of movement for exercise sequences that are composed of spiraling, circular movements. These carefully-choreographed sequences are designed to create balance, efficiency, strength and flexibility — not to mention improve posture, regulate breathing and strengthen the core and pelvic floor (super important for moms-to-be!).
If I were on the ZOOM+ plan, the next steps would be for Dr. Kassam and I to set some measurable goals and design a 90-day sprint in which we’d make a game plan for how to go about reaching those goals. We’d meet monthly to check in on progress and tweak the approach, as needed.
This kind of accountability, along with the thoughtfulness and relevance of her suggestions, would no doubt produce some great results. In fact, even though I’m not doing the traditional sprint-and-follow-up format with ZOOM+, I am following through on her recommendations and look forward to going in for another assessment to get a more accurate baseline after Baby H comes this spring.
If you’re in the Portland area, it’s something I’d advise checking out because it’s both empowering and enlightening to be able to take your health into your own hands. Not to mention that getting ahead of the curve when it comes to healthcare is no longer something any of us can afford to ignore.
For more information about ZOOM+, visit ZoomCare.com.
Disclaimer: I received a complementary performance assessment to try. All opinions (and geeking out over the associated metrics) are my own, however. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Kinetic Fix!