by Aaron Friday, 10/27/2017
Why should we care about muscle mass? The short answer is that we need it to be strong and healthy, and we will be even stronger and healthier if we get more.
Improved Body Composition and Metabolism
The term body composition commonly refers to a person’s bodyfat percentage. For example, average bodyfat is about 30% for a 40 year-old woman and 25% for a 40 year-old man. Without intervention (exercise and diet), this percentage tends to increase with age for the rest of our lives.
Consider this startling fact:
Starting in their 30s, the average American gains 10 pounds of bodyweight each decade. Accounting for this net gain is the addition of 15-20 pounds of fat combined with the loss of 5-10 pounds of muscle !!!!!!!!!!!!
So, even though we may be aware of weight gain as we age, we are likely gaining more fat than we think because some of the extra weight is masked by muscle loss. What’s more, even if we don’t gain weight as we get older, losing muscle mass by itself results in a higher bodyfat percentage (whereas gaining muscle mass results in a lower bodyfat percentage).
Now, consider this other fact:
A pound of muscle at rest burns 3x more calories than a pound of fat.
All else being equal, the more muscle tissue we have, the more calories we burn. And that’s just resting muscle. Working our muscles (via exercise, especially) results in our burning dramatically more calories.
What we should do is resolve to pursue muscle gains as we get older. Otherwise, we are likely to get fatter, even fatter than we think, as the years go by. And it isn’t just our appearance that will suffer. This (unfortunately typical) aging process actually increases our risk of diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, some cancers, and other health problems. We should forget about being “typical” and focus on improving our body composition.
Weight training is the answer. It is the only mode of exercise that will preserve muscle mass and metabolism as we age, and is an essential component of any fitness program for people over 30.