Woman using barbells

Use Muscle, Don't Lose It

We’ve all seen it. The celebrity weight transformations. A celebrity gets a role and that calls for an actor with a muscular physique and all of a sudden they’ve transformed into the “Incredible Hulk,” seemingly overnight, adding masses of muscle to their formerly moderate frames, only to slim down just as quickly to normal or even emaciated proportions depending on their next role. Of course they will openly discuss how they “bulked up” or “slimmed down” with tales of excessive carb, consumption and exhausting workouts or stories of food deprivation worthy of a homeless orphan.

However, while we are used to the seemingly impossible becoming commonplace in Hollywood, we hope for a more stable body weight for ourselves. When we build muscle, we generally hope to maintain it, but we need to use it to make sure we don’t lose it.

The Bad News
If you don’t start exercising now, your muscles will shrink by the time your are seventy. Two recent studies found that the atrophy of muscles previously though to be a normal part of aging is not inevitable.

One study used MRI snapshots to compare muscle mass in the mid thighs of athletes aged 40 to 81. Images revealed not much difference between the younger and older athletes and found very little decrease in mid thing muscles with age. In contrast, in healthy but sedentary 70 year old, the results were very different, showing a significant decrease in muscle mass.

Another study looked at the “motor units” of the leg muscles. Motor units are the basic units of the muscles, each of which is connected to a single neuron. It is believed the part of the general weakening that occurs with age is attributed to the atrophy of the motor units. The study revealed a close similarity in the number of motor units of 60 and 20 year old runners. However, this did not apply to the arm muscles, with older runners and non runners alike experiencing similar decline in the motor units of the arms.

Woman with prominent biceps

The Good News
The loss of muscle mass, also known as sarcopenia, can be managed with exercise. Exercise stimulates the release of hormones crucial to healthy muscle mass, such as the growth hormone, crucial to the mechano growth factor. Exercise can also prevent the loss of essential bone and muscle associated with aging.

Although aerobic exercise is great for the cardiovascular system and effective in keeping down fat levels, it is only mildly helpful in maintaining the lean body mass you already have. When it comes to the preserving and increasing lean mass, resistance training is the way to go. The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises strength training, such as using weights, machines, bands, and other devices to promote mobility, improve fitness, and increase bone density.

The Big Four For Muscle Building
Because your body is made primarily of “push and pull” muscles, it is important to focus on exercises that focus on those movements. The squat is a great whole body “push” exercise and should be coupled with a whole body “push-pull” like the deadlift, which incorporates core and lower body muscles. For the upper body, the bench press and barbell row are the two main lifts to incorporate into your strength training routine. Doing these will let you minimize finishing exercises for the abs and calves.

How are you using your muscles? Let us know! You’re looking great!

Woman weighing herself

The Relationship Between Age and Weight

“Boy, he (she) got fat!” Definitely not the nicest thing to think about another person, but most probably a thought that has occurred to us at one time or another. Whether it was the girlfriend you used to sip wine coolers and eat endless amounts of Funyuns with, or the formerly gaunt singer of the eighties heavy metal band that you used to rock out to, age and weight seem to have a funny way of catching up to us at the same time. As if one of the two isn’t bad enough.

However, one just needs to look at aging supermodels, like Heidi Klum and Christie Brinkley to know that age and weight do not have to come as a package deal. Let’s take a closer look at the age/weight relationship and see if the two can be mutually exclusive.

Studies
As you age, the composition of your body changes. Metabolism and hormonal levels alter, impacting the degree and speed of fat accumulation. Generally, the greatest body weight is found in males and females in the 50-59 age group, and declines gradually after you hit 60. In the mid-seventies weight tends to increase again, followed by a small drop off.

A study of runners, ages 18-50 found that in the below 30 age group, most runners were moderately overweight, nearly 30% of the 45 to 49 age group exceeded their recommended weight.

Men Vs. Women
It seems that in the battle of the sexes, weight gain in regard to age is not exempt. Although the male sex is more likely to be overweight, women are more prone to obesity. Problem spots also differ. Whereas women tend to add on pounds on the hips and thighs before menopause, whereas the midsection is the more commonly problematic for men.

Women exercising

Weight Charts
According to most weight charts, the recommended weight for a woman of 5’6″ is between 117 and 143 pounds. A male of 5’11 has a recommended weight of 155 to 189 pounds. However, weight charts are usually broken down by height and gender without consideration for age, a factor you might want to consider in the evaluation of your weight and your weight loss goals.

Weight Loss Strategies
Although there is a correlation between age and weight gain, the good news is, it is believed that regular workouts can prevent the added pounds that can result from aging. However, it may get a little tougher. As you age, your body loses muscle, which means that you tend to burn fewer calories, which means you may want to increase your activity level. For example, you may want to extend a 30-minute workout to 40 minutes over time. Also, keep in mind that weight training plays a key role in muscle development and is directly related to the number of calories burned, and should be a key consideration in designing your workout routine.

Your diet is another important thing to consider as you age. The junk food and sugar that you metabolized so easily in your younger years will become more problematic as your metabolism slows. Keep your intake of calories at a moderate level and try to include vegetables, fruits, yogurt, and fish in your diet.

How do you keep active as you age? You’re looking especially young!