How many times have you heard that being fat was bad for your health? But is it?
I have been saying for years that the amount of fat on your body makes very little difference in your health unless it is simultaneously accompanied with a decrease in your muscle mass. As you might imagine, your muscle mass refers to the amount of your weight that consists of muscle. And now a brand new study out of the University of Medicine at UCLA is backing me up big time on the overriding importance of muscle mass. How much muscle you have is much more important than how much fat is on your body.
The researchers followed 3,659 men and women for six years. They were interested in how much their muscle mass affected their longevity. They checked each person's muscle mass using a bio-impedance measurement. This is a simple, inexpensive, and remarkably accurate technology that doctors can use right in the clinic. I have been using it for years. All of the men were 55 years or older, and all of the women were 65 years or older. They made sure to exclude anyone who was undernourished or who died within the first two years. This was to make sure that all of them were disease free at the start of the experiment. The results are going to make you think twice about missing that next trip to the gym.
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The researchers divided the group into four groups depending on their muscle mass. Over the next six years, the men and women in the group with the lowest muscle mass had a 20% higher death rate than those in the group with the highest muscle mass. This includes death from all causes – you name it. And here's the thing. The death rate was independent of how much fat the people had. In other words, how much fat they had was immaterial. Their death rate was influenced only by the amount of muscle they had.
So if you are an older man or woman and are worried about your health and longevity because you are fat, forget it. It doesn't matter. What matters is how much muscle you have under that fat. So start working on it. I always encourage my patients who are new to muscle building exercise (resistance training) to hire a trainer initially to help them get going. Trainers can do a lot to make sure that you are doing the exercises right and don't get injured. And just think of this.
Suppose I were to tell you about a new supplement that could decrease your chance of dying over the next six years by 20%. My guess is you would be clamoring to know what it was. But resistance training is not like a supplement. Supplements aren't free and they don't make you look better. And resistance training does something else that no one supplement can do – reduce your chance of dying from every single cause there is!
So I hope that you will start a resistance training program for one hour three times a week. I plan to be around in six years, and I want you to be there too.
Yours for better health,