Be sure to check out the piece The Scales Can Lie: Hidden Fat in today’s Wall Street Journal. It discusses a recent Mayo Clinic study on normal weight obesity – i.e. having a BMI within an “acceptable” range but still having unhealthy amounts of body fat.
This article is especially salient right now as legions of Americans hit the gym to keep their New Year resolutions to “shed a few pounds.” The problem with this approach is that being fit and healthy has very little to do with losing weight and everything to do with developing and maintaining an optimal body composition.
But don’t tell that to most gyms and personal trainers:
Still, body-fat assessment is a common feature at many gyms. At Equinox Fitness Club, a national chain based in New York, members get a body-composition test as part of an initial assessment before they begin a training regimen. “This is a culture obsessed with weight, but very little attention is paid to the composition of that weight,” says Geralyn Coopersmith, an exercise physiologist and senior national manager for Equinox’s training program.
The key is, throw away your scale and focus instead on consuming the right foods and engaging in shorter-burst, higher intensity activities that stimulate the growth of lean muscle tissue. In fact, the Mayo study zeros directly in on the latter point:
The findings of the Mayo study, which was published in November in the European Heart Journal, suggest that reducing heart risk requires increasing the percentage of lean muscle mass at the expense of body fat. That underscores the importance of exercise in maintaining cardiovascular health—including weight lifting and other resistance training, which helps build lean body mass.
Remember, only caged rats run on treadmills – and they tend to live sick and die young.