Health Q & A is a LKN Connect Health & Wellness column published every two weeks. The readership is invited to submit questions falling within the fields of health promotion, wellness, and disease prevention. Content areas can include nutrition, diet, weight loss, supplementation, fitness, exercise, stress and anxiety, ancestral health, and epigenetics among others. Please direct questions for Health Q & A directly to Wayne Coolidge wayne@healthydynamic living.com
Mary M. Asks: I hear and read that muscle is important to helping the aging process. Can you explain why?
There’s considerable evidence that muscle mass is critical to healthy aging and longevity in both men and women. I’ll “double down” and take that statement a step further. I believe that lifestyle contributions necessary to build muscle (resistance training and physical activity) are as valuable to the body as simply possessing it. Plus, muscle equals strength and strength is practical!
Muscle: One of healthy aging’s best friends
I know that muscle mass is positively correlated with successful aging. I also know exactly what it takes to build muscle at an optimal rate in anyone, at any age. The regimen includes resistance training, workout intensity and consistency, proper nutrition with supplementation, rest, and recuperation. I’ll re-emphasize my “double down” comment above by stating: The result, (muscle), and the road to get there, (lifestyle optimization), will lead to high-level wellness through healthy cellular aging.
How does muscle contribute to chronic disease prevention and increased mobility?
It’s a well-documented theory that inflammation is the initial instigator of most, if not all, chronic disease . Muscle extends anti-inflammatory benefits to the body. Body fat plays the opposite role, by interfering with hormones and producing inflammatory cytokines [2,3]. Muscle’s role in regulating inflammation and possibly preventing diseases like cancer, arthritis, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases is well known in scientific circles . Public health must do a better job of publicizing the role of muscle in disease prevention.
Muscle is the force behind all movement. Scientists who study the effects of aging are quick to point out that age-related muscle loss resulting in decreased mobility is the beginning of the end of functional movement and self-reliance. The more muscle that you build and maintain through adulthood, middle age, and into old age, the better off you’ll be in terms of maintaining your independence. I always say that people should treat aging like an athletic event. Train for it. The longer it takes before getting up and out of a chair becomes a physical challenge, the longer you’ll enjoy your independence. If you just turned 40 and believe it’s too early to think about these things, please believe me, it’s not. On the other hand, it’s never too late to start.
Muscle does the work while fat goes along for the ride.
Muscle is a dynamic, active tissue that requires energy for its maintenance. Fat contributes little metabolically and nothing to movement. Fat does nothing more than provide a heavier load for muscles to move. Muscle is your friend because of its ability to counter the effects of, and contribute to the elimination of, unwanted body fat. Muscle accomplishes that by increasing the body’s metabolic rate. Your body uses more calories at rest just to feed and maintain muscle. A big powerful V8 engine requires more fuel than a puny little four-cylinder engine, just as a body with more muscle requires more fuel than a weak body with little muscle.
The practical benefits of adding muscle and the strength that comes with it are impressive. The lifestyle changes necessary to increase muscle will benefit you physically and mentally as you proceed through the aging process.
Live longer, stronger by working to increase your strength and muscle mass.
Chung HY, Cesari M, Anton S, et al. Molecular inflammation: underpinnings of aging and age-related diseases. Ageing Res Rev. 2009;8(1):18–30.
Nishimura S, Manabe I, Nagai R. Adipose tissue inflammation in obesity and metabolic syndrome. Discov Med. 2009;8(41):55–60.
Wisse BE. The inflammatory syndrome: the role of adipose tissue cytokines in metabolic disorders linked to obesity. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2004;15(11):2792–2800.
Ciccolo JT, Carr LJ, Krupel KL, et al. The role of resistance training in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2010;4:293–308.
Wayne Coolidge, Jr., M.Ed., CHES is an author, speaker, and innovative Health Promotion Scholar-Practitioner. He owns Wayne Coolidge Health Promotion, a consulting firm specializing in healthy aging, nutrition, nutritional supplementation, fat loss, fitness, and disease prevention. His expertise is designing lifestyle-optimization strategies leading to positive genetic expression, controlled cellular aging, health, and wellness. He has accumulated more than 31,000 hours of one-on-one training and personal consultation experience over a 37-year career. Wayne’s web site www.waynecoolidge.com. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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