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This last week Melinda and I headed to the Blue Ridge mountains for a brief break from the heat of summer, and to disengage from our normal routine. While away we typically do not do our usual daily exercise but instead look for opportunities for some outdoor adventure. On this trip that choice was easy – rafting down the Oconee River. With all the rain this year the river was high, making for class 4-rapids. It was one of the most intense and thrilling rafting trips I’ve ever experienced.

One thing I noticed was that Melinda and I, in our mid-60s, we’re definitely the oldest by far, of the fifty or so people that rode the rapids that day. I was proud that we could keep up with our younger adventure seekers in all that we endured physically that day, and trust me, it was at times demanding!

There are many reasons why it’s important to get strong and stay strong. Maybe the most important is that you will be able to continue doing fun and adventurous outdoor activities later in life. That said, here are 3 more reasons why muscle matters.

Muscle mass revs metabolism helps maintain an ideal weight

1-pound of fat burns 2-calories a day. 1-pound of muscle burns 350-calories a day.

Science has proven that after 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 3 lbs every 5 years. We also tend to lose about 5 lbs 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 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.

Muscle reduces blood sugar and fatty acids from the bloodstream

Muscle burns both fats (fatty acids) and glucose to conduct its normal cellular cleanse. In its removal of both from the bloodstream, muscle is effectively cleaning the vascular system. In effect, muscles are glucose filters. What that means in practical terms is, over time, less atherosclerosis, less cancer, less Alzheimer’s disease, etc. All of these diseases are caused, in some respect, by too much blood sugar causing an insulin-resistant state.

Muscle stabilizes and protects joints reducing disease and arthritis

When it comes to back pain, or knee pain, you may have noticed that when you work out, over time the pain is reduced. This is due to the body’s anti-inflammatory response to the training itself (mediated by so-called “resolvins” and “protectins”) and the joint-stabilizing effects of the newly added muscle. The stronger your muscles are, the more stable your joints are, and the less prone they are to degenerative joint disease or arthritis.

Conclusion

If you have been neglecting your muscles by not doing exercises to build and maintain strength, you’re missing out on a few very important benefits of increased muscle mass, and especially as you age.

Get strong, stay strong, and enjoy every opportunity to participate in the many wonderful adventures of this life!

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