If you're interested in maintaining a good body, you may have heard a possibly apocryphal story about a person with a well muscled, lean physique who visited the doctor and was told that their BMI measurement showed them to be obese and that they should lose weight....
Now a study from Los Angeles School of Medicine, University of California and published in the American Journal of Medicine has added more weight to the idea that BMI alone is not the entire story when it comes to a healthy body.
The study, led by Dr Preeki Srikanthan, found that overall body composition is a better measure than BMI alone when looking at the likelihood of early death from all-causes. Furthermore, they found that the more muscle mass people have in later life, the less likely they were to suffer premature death.
Currently, there is no "gold standard" for describing maximal overall body composition, and studies using different measurement techniques have produced different results. After analysing data collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted between 1988 and 1994 the researchers then followed it up with another survey in 2004. The subjects of the first survey were aged between 55 and 65 at the time, and the second survey looked at how many of them had died from natural causes in the intervening years.
When examining the data, the researchers found a significant link between higher muscle mass and a lower rate of early death.
In other words, the greater your muscle mass, the lower your risk of death," said Dr. Arun Karlamangla, an associate professor in the geriatrics division at the Geffen School and the study's co-author. "Thus, rather than worrying about weight or body mass index, we should be trying to maximize and maintain muscle mass."
Although the study could not establish a causal relationship, the relationship was strong enough that they were persuaded that "muscle mass seems to be an important predictor of risk of death," according to Srikathan.
So, if you maintain your muscles you can run, you can climb, you can ski and surf, you can be more active and get more out of your life overall. Now it seems that doing so will also give you a chance of doing so for longer.
How bad is that?