Saturday, June 8, 2013

Muscle is the Key to a Firm Body

On a recent flight returning home.  I sat beside a woman who was in her mid-50s.  We struck up a conversation and she asked me my profession, and told her I was a personal trainer.  I knew her next question would be something about exercise or diet, and she didn't disappoint me.  She asked me the question I hear most often from middle-aged women; "how do I keep my body firm as I age?" My standard reply to this is, "what are you doing now to keep your body firm?" 

The typical answer I get to the above question is; "I do lots of cardio."  While cardiovascular exercise is an important part of any exercise program, strength training should be your the foundation of your fitness routine as you age.  Strength training is the most effective activity you can do to build and maintain healthy muscle mass.  Muscle is that component of your body that burns the most calories and helps you to keep that lean and tone look no matter your age.

Muscle is the engine that keeps your metabolism running high.  Unfortunately, as a part of the aging process you naturally start to lose muscle mass around the age of 40.  That's the age when people come to me and say something like this; "I'm starting to get his spare tire around my waist, or I've got these saddle bags on my hips that I can't get rid of.  I'm not eating anymore than I normally do, what's happening to my body?"

Well, what's happening to your body is you are starting to lose muscle mass and your ability to burn all those calories you are consuming.  In other words, the engine in your car is shrinking.  Starting in your 40s you can naturally lose a pound to a pound and a half of muscle each year.  Now follow this; each pound of muscle burns approximately 6 calories daily even at rest.  So, each year you decrease your calorie burning capability by (6 x 1.5 lb x 365 days in a year), 3,285 calories. There's approximately 3500 calories in one pound of fat so, you get fatter by one pound each year.

The above scenario is pretty depressing huh?  However, the good news is you can avoid this path by building and maintaining  your muscle mass, and the most effective way to do this is through regular strength training. And equally as exciting is it's never too late to start building muscle and increasing your metabolism.  Studies have shown that people in their 90s can still build muscle.

Basically strength training is doing exercises that adds resistance to your body weight such as weight lifting.  A good strength training program should be performed 2 to 3 times each week in which all the major muscle groups are exercised. I suggest you get with a certified fitness professional and let them design a strength training program for you.

In the meanwhile, checkout one of my favorite strength training exercises below.








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