One of the most important reasons why exercise, in particular resistance training, is so important as we age is to help protect and even develop new muscle tissue. Maintaining muscle mass becomes increasingly important because it helps protect our joints against injury and keeps us mobile and functioning correctly into older age when muscle loss can start to occur. Not only does an increase in lean muscle mass make us healthier into older age by allowing us to function better, more muscle also allows us to maintain a healthier weight.
Muscle is a very ‘metabolically active’ tissue. At rest it is estimated that each 1kg of lean body mass contributes around 20kcal to our daily energy requirements. This may not seem much, however as aging slows our metabolic rate we want to make sure we do everything we can to sustain it. Losing muscle would certainly be far from ideal and building some would counteract age related declines in energy expenditure.
That amount of extra energy usage may seem insignificant, but it is when we are active that muscle increases our energy output much more significantly. At rest the body isn’t contracting muscles, so when we start to exercise, or even just move about doing day to day tasks, then our bodies are burning more fuel to provide energy for the muscles and this is where the real benefits kick in for weight control.
This is why outside of the gym I also encourage people to be as active as possible and put their muscles to good use. NEAT (Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) has been a buzz phrase in the industry over the last couple of years to emphasise this. Basically, this refers to the energy expended for everything we do that is not actual training or sports based activity…walking to, from and at work, playing with the kids, housework, gardening, shopping are all good examples of daily tasks that can contribute massively to energy expenditure (hence the soar in popularity of step counters like fitbits to help track daily activity levels). This helps to hugely boost daily energy expenditure, often more than people realise, and support weight loss and maintaining a much leaner physique.
The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you will be burning during any activity. In fact you will be burning more calories 24/7, even when you are resting or sleeping! Increased muscle mass also has the obvious aesthetic benefits of a more muscular & shaplier physique. I know I have written about this many time (see previous blogs) but resistance training, combined with proper nutrition, is the best way to achieve this.
I am a 40+ personal trainer working based in Poole, Dorset, working with and supporting a variety of clients in all aspects of their, health, fitness and lifestyles.