In my last column,”Overweight? Consider this.” , I wrote about some of our long-term overweight clients—why they continue, how they benefit, how they feel, etc. And while that column was still on the Oyster Pointer stands, I received a trade publication with research that adds another dimension to the point I was making.
Although this isn’t new information, it is further confirmation of my Number One health and fitness recommendation for more than 30 years: We all need to have (build) more lean muscle tissue. The often-referenced Body Mass Index (BMI) doesn’t distinguish muscle from fat, meaning a stocky muscular fit athlete has the exact same BMI as a sedentary high body fat person of the same height and weight. In my opinion, BMI is pointless.
This up-to-date research study of 3,659 individuals, all of whom started the study with ages over 55, was conducted over 10 years and was just published in the American Journal of Medicine. Their body composition was measured by Bioelectrical Impedance (the same method we regularly use in our private studios). The current is impeded more as it passes through fat because fat tissue has less water. We already know that improved body composition contributes to better quality of years, and the measured benefits have long been cited—more energy, better joint range of motion with less discomfort, reduced blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, fewer onsets of Type 2 diabetes, etc. But this study specifically was designed to measure how/if the amount of lean muscle tissue affects lifespan.
The mortality results were blunt: “The greater your muscle mass, the lower your risk of death.”
In addition: “Rather than worrying about weight or BMI, we should be trying to maximize and maintain muscle.”
To be clear, this isn’t talking about massive muscle gains that make us look a bit overdone. For most of us, that would require some chemicals and supplementation. This is referring to practical, useful muscle tissue. And while there are a number of nutritional components that contribute to the capacity to build new lean muscle tissue, the most important factor, the one essential factor, the factor that is the main barrier to those who don’t try is: effort. There are no dietary promises to make to ourselves, and there are no nutritional supplements that build brand new lean muscle tissue—and that is the unavoidable goal. Effort and hard work are required to achieve it.
Am I trying to discourage and scare away readers from starting a muscle building routine/habit? Nope, I’m trying to bluntly clarify what’s needed with the purpose of inspiring those who want to improve to not only start but more importantly, to stick with it. It’s a lifelong pursuit that we never really attain; we just continue to work on it. The importance can’t be overrated. The rewards are clear: more of our time here without pain, discomfort and illness. Along with good luck, there is no better way to ensure that than to do something we all can do. As simple as it sounds, we can improve ourselves by continuing to work toward building useful muscle as a lifelong activity.