Destined to Become Fat and Flabby?
Q: Does the ratio of fat to muscle
necessarily increase as a person ages?
A: It often does - but it doesn't have
to, says Wayne Westcott, fitness
research director at the South Shore
YMCA in Quincy, Mass., and a
consultant to the American Council
on Exercise.

"Unless doing strengthening exercises,
the average male and female between
ages 20 and 50 lose 5 to 7 pounds of
muscle per decade and add three times
as much fat per decade," says
Westcott.

Do the math and you can see why people tend to become fatter and flabbier with
age. As the obesity epidemic grows, the problem is only getting worse.

If we eat more and exercise less throughout the decades, the fat will pack on,
especially since metabolism can slow down some with age, Westcott notes.

Our bodies will look even more out of shape if we don't work our muscles to keep
them strong and firm. And in today's world, there are few opportunities to
strengthen our muscles aside from lifting weights.

But you can fight back against fat and flab as you age. How? Start by losing weight
or maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise.

How much exercise do you need? That depends on how much you eat and how
active you are during the day, notes Jeanette Jenkins, a personal trainer in Los
Angeles.

Weight loss amounts to calories in versus calories out. To lose a pound of fat, you
need to create a deficit of 3,500 calories. Experts advise losing no more than a
pound or two a week.

Federal health officials recommend that Americans get half an hour of moderate
physical activity on most days of the week. That's enough to keep your heart
healthy, but it may not be enough to promote weight loss. An Institute of Medicine
report advised Americans to get an hour of physical activity a day to control their
weight.

Heart-pumping activities such as jogging burn more calories minute-for-minute
than lighter activities like walking. But walking is a great activity that many people
can do. If you walk instead of jog, you'll just have to exercise longer to get the same
calorie burn, says Jenkins.
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