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Muscle Preservation and Fat Loss

NY Times on Fat Loss

One of the adverse effects of diets is the loss of muscle that accompanies a reduction of body fat.  Muscle is the metabolic engine, injury preventative armor, and longevity enhancing elixir of human biology.  Gretchen Reynolds of the New York Times has written an enlightening *article on the best method of losing body fat while holding onto valuable muscle.  The recent research reveals that a program of strength training produces optimal fat loss with significantly less muscle wasting.  Long slow distance exercise combined with caloric restriction accelerates muscle loss.  Your choice of exercise activity can have a profound impact on your physical performance and health.  Read the NY Times article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/15/well/move/to-maintain-muscle-and-lose-fat-as-you-age-add-weights.html?_r=0.

After the age of 25, the average American gains a pound of fat and loses a ½ pound of muscle every year.  If no action in taken to reverse this trend, the average American will have gained 25-30 pounds of fat and shed 12-15 pounds of muscle by the time they reach 55 years of age.  This 55 year old will stand on the scale 12 to 18 pounds heavier, but the true alteration in body composition is far more dramatic.

America does not have “an obesity epidemic”, it has a “muscle atrophy epidemic”.  We are not so much over fat as we are under muscled.  The simplistic notion of “losing weight” fails to improve health because it accelerates muscle loss.  Middle age muscle loss is the catalyst for many of the illnesses that plague us later in life.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

*To Maintain Muscle and Lose Fat as Your Age, Add Weights, Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times, November 15, 2017

Biomarker Reminder

Drs. Evans and Rosenburg are Tufts University researchers interested in the measurable parameters that keep humans healthy and fit over an entire life span.  They have determined that the top four biomarkers are:

  1. Muscle Mass.  The percentage of your body that is made of muscle.
  2. Strength.  Can you use that muscle to push, pull, lift and carry.
  3. Basal Metabolic Rate.  The number of calories your body expends at rest.
  4. Body fat Percentage.  What percentage of your body is composed of fat.

The authors named these top four biomarkers, the decisive tetrad.  They are the prerequisites to maintaining healthy numbers in all of the other essential biomarkers.

  1. Aerobic Capacity
  2. Blood Sugar Tolerance
  3. Cholesterol / HDL ratio
  4. Blood Pressure
  5. Bone Density
  6. Internal Body Temperature Regulation

Drs. Evans and Rosenburg coined the term age related sarcopenia in their 1991 book Biomarkers.  It refers to the gradual loss of muscle mass that occurs as we age.  The keys to aging well, staying durable–no injuries, and maintaining control of all health parameters is maintaining or improving muscle mass / strength and eating properly.  An ongoing program of strength training and nutritional discipline are the foremost components of fitness and health.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

A physician friend sent me this recently released research article on the benefits of maintaining strength and muscle mass as we age.  I think everyone should take the time to read this article.  We are keeping people alive for longer periods of time, but how well are they living?  The discussion of the extension of life span compared to enhancement of health span is worthy of consideration.  Improving muscle mass and strength dramatically improves quality of life, a factor often not given enough consideration.

10522_2015_9631_Fig1_HTMLAge-related sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass as we age.  Sarcopenia and functional disability travel hand in hand.  Combating sarcopenia has become a hot research topic as greater numbers of the American population pass through old age and the cost of their care becomes an issue.  The good news is that age-related sarcopenia is a very treatable condition.  The bad news is that it takes some education and effort.   When discussing the need for strength training, these are the top questions/concerns I get from physical therapy patients and fitness clients:

OK, how much, how difficult, and how often?
After the eye rolling, this is the question I get from most of my sarcopenic patients.  The research training programs that successfully reversed age-related sarcopenia involved four to seven progressive resistance exercises performed for a total of twelve to twenty sets.  The participants trained two or three times a week and the level of perceived exertion fell into the mild to moderate regions.  You are looking at 90 – 150 minutes a week of mild to moderate exercise.  The important, and often completely missed, aspect of progressive resistance training is that you increase the resistance or load lifted as you become stronger.

Can’t I just do yoga, golf, tennis, hot yoga, swim, walk, chair yoga, tiddly-wink, Pilates, underwater yoga?
I am sorry but the research studies have not found that these training modalities produce the necessary stimulus to combat age-related sarcopenia.  You can still perform all of these activities– just include a consistent program of progressive resistance strength training.

I don’t know what to do…
Poor exercise selection and beginner’s enthusiasm are the biggest reasons people fail with progressive resistance strength training.  Exercise is like medicine, administer the correct prescription at the proper dose and the results will be good.  Just like a visit to your physician, it all starts with an evaluation.  You need to start at a level that makes you better and not broken.  Get instruction from a qualified coach and follow his/her plan.  A big warning- the world of fitness is filled with many “certified experts” -–it took them a full weekend to complete their training.  These experts keep us busy in the physical therapy clinic.

You can view the research article here: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10522-015-9631-7
-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

PDFThis month, Mike O’Hara discusses how to add planks to your training and how to progress this exercise to make it more challenging.  Video demonstration of all the variations can be found by using the link provided in the article.  Jeff Tirrell explains how it’s never too late to begin an exercise program.

Download Here

Strength training

High intensity interval training

Eat adequate amounts of protein

Sleep long and well

FFAC has been making these recommendations forever. Take the time to read the article by Kathleen Hughes, “How Athletes Can Stay ‘Fast After 50’,” in the October 18, 2015 edition of the Wall Street Journal. If you are over fifty and are not following these fitness guidelines, you are missing out on the magic.

Click on the link below to read the article:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/how-athletes-can-stay-fast-after-50-1445220142

-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

Biceps“I don’t want to get big and bulky”.  I hear this often from people who are new to exercise as well as lifelong gym members when it comes to lifting weights.  Don’t worry.  It’s not that easy. Bodybuilders and strength enthusiasts spend a lifetime trying to achieve it.

Most people’s goals to tone up, decrease body fat, and increase strength and mobility, require them to build more muscle. Let me explain why:

Research has demonstrated that after about the age of 25, Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) starts to decrease by 2-4% each decade. This means, that by age 55, your RMR will likely have decreased by 6-12% or from 2000 calories/day to perhaps as low as 1760 calories/day. If your nutrition and/or activity levels don’t change, this will lead to weight gain.

This easily explains why the average American gains 3lbs every 5 years. Interestingly, we also tend to lose about 5lbs of lean mass (which is metabolically active) per decade after the age of 25. This is no coincidence. With less muscle, our metabolism slows, and we tend to gain weight in the form of fat. We start to move less because it’s harder, which leads to more muscle loss and a slower metabolism. It’s a vicious cycle. This cycle happens so slowly that many of us don’t see it coming until it’s too late and hard to reverse. We have now stored more fat (less toned), lost strength (and power), and don’t move as well.

Looking for the good news?  It’s all 100% preventable.  In many cases, it can also be reversed. Resistance training with the goal of hypertrophy (muscle growth) and strength gives your muscle reason to grow, or at the very least, not atrophy or wither away. Nutrition plays a vital role in this process as well.  You need adequate nutrients (particularly protein) in order to build and repair muscle. Increasing your muscle is a great way to “tone” and helps to ensure success with your long term fitness goals.

Step off the treadmill, pick up something heavy, eat a steak, and give your metabolic rate a fighting chance as you age.

-Jeff Tirrell, B.S., CSCS

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