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The Fat vs Muscle Factor

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It is a known fact that as we age our bodies change. Starting around the age of 45 we start to lose muscle mass at a rate of approximately 1% per year. Although this doesn’t sound like a big deal, it really is.

The reason being is because at the same time our bodies are starting to lose muscle mass, most people are starting to gain weight. The average American gains 1-2 pounds of weight per year as they age. Again that doesn’t sound like a lot but if you average that over 10 years, you have gained 15 pounds!

Let’s look at that. Muscle is about 18% denser than fat. In other words, think about weight verses volume. A pound is a pound but the amount of space one takes up verses the other is the key factor. For an extreme example think about the weight of one pound of feathers verses one pound of brick. Since the brick is so much denser, it would take up much less space than one pound of feathers would. You get the point?

So, if muscle is 18% denser than fat and we are losing mass yet gaining weight what do you think we really gaining? Fat, of course. Our bodies are either staying the same size or, in many cases getting physically bigger. Consequently our ratio of muscle to fat is changing dramatically.

Less muscle means less strength thus decreasing our ability to do even the little things. I met a woman who could no longer carry her own groceries into the house because they had become too heavy and she was not very old! Verses the woman who still lifts weights at 68 years old, looks fabulous and carries just about anything and everything she wants. Big difference. This doesn’t even address the bigger picture of doing the fun things. I have a 77 year old friend that plays tennis like no body’s business. She competed in a league a few weeks ago, played for 3 hours to win the overall competition, and she was playing against women in their 50’s. Now that’s living!

A decrease in muscle mass does not only equate to less strength. With less muscle, a decrease in bone density rises thus leading to the potential for osteoporosis. In addition studies have shown that an increase in strength can:

Add a Comment2 Comments


Thanks so much for the thorough information, and for the link to the body fat test online. Great resource!

September 25, 2009 - 8:37am
(reply to Diane Porter)


So glad you found it helpful! :-)

September 25, 2009 - 12:39pm
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