I’m sure you’re well aware by now that 70 percent of adults in the U.S. are overweight. But have you ever thought about the flip side of that statistic? It implies that around 30 percent of U.S. adults are able to maintain a healthy weight despite the abundance of calorie-dense foods and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. In a 2010 poll, only about half of normal-weight adults reported exercising three times per week. This raises a good question: If you’re already at a healthy weight, why should you exercise?
I’ll tell you why—keep reading.
Exercise Increases Lean Mass
Resting metabolic rate describes the amount of calories you burn while at rest. Basically, it's the amount of calories you'd burn if you just sat in a chair and didn't move for the entire day. In normal conditions, resting metabolic rate is the largest component of the total amount of energy expended in a day and it varies considerably from person to person. It seems almost cruel and unfair, but some people just happen to burn more calories by doing nothing than others. The major factor for this variability is fat-free mass: the more lean mass you have, the greater your resting metabolic rate.
So, by exercising and increasing muscle mass, you can increase your metabolic rate, and thus burn more calories per day at rest. In other words, you can eat more per day and stay the same weight or you can eat the same amount and lose some weight—your choice. In addition to increasing your metabolic rate, strength training, which increases lean mass, boosts insulin sensitivity (and that's a good thing), enhances glucose metabolism and reduces triglyceride levels and blood pressure, decreasing your risk for the metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease.
Exercise Enhances Mood and Brain Power
There is strong and consistent evidence that exercise enhances positive mood and reduces feelings of stress. In fact, researchers have noted that physical activity may be the most effective technique for getting rid of a bad mood, and it's used in the treatment of anxiety disorders and depression.
How many days have you come home from a hard day at work stressed out? Instead of reaching for comfort food, try a quick workout to enhance your mood. Working out has also been shown to increase memory, improve reaction time and enhance executive function (i.e. planning, attention, problem solving,etc.). Exercise also helps fight the aging process, including symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. So, keep in mind that working out isn’t only for improving your body—it can also improve your brain function.
How to Measure Lean Muscle Mass
If stepping on the scale and seeing the pounds melt away is not your main motivation for heading to the gym, you should aim to add more lean muscle mass. Consider purchasing a body composition monitor, which measures body-fat percentage, lean-mass percentage, and visceral fat (fat around your internal organs). Then, you can measure your progress by seeing how much lean mass you are gaining. And because lean mass is denser than fat mass, your physical appearance will change despite maintaining the same weight. This means you can drop a pants size without losing a single pound.
What would be your biggest reason for adding lean muscle if it isn't about losing weight on the scale? To enhance your mood? To fight the aging process? Let us know in the comments section below!
Brian Maher is the owner of Philly Personal Training, a private personal training studio in the Rittenhouse Square area. He and his staff of personal trainers offer packages to busy individuals looking to make lifestyle changes by improving their overall fitness and wellness. Read all of Brian’s posts for Be Well Philly here.
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