Building chest muscles through resistance training may help you get a chiseled chest. But it also will help you perform many everyday activities that become more difficult with age.
“Starting at age 50, and especially by the time you get to be 60 or 70, activities of daily living — carrying groceries or cutting the grass — are much more limited by loss of muscle strength than by cardiopulmonary problems,” says Michael J. Joyner, MD, a physiologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “Many people that age can still walk three or four miles per hour, but 70% of 70-year-olds can’t get up off the floor. They’re not strong enough to do that.”
Building chest muscles — and all other muscles — not only makes you stronger, it also improves your metabolism by helping your body remove sugar from your blood. This protects against diabetes.
“The more muscle mass you have, the easier it is for glucose to go into your skeletal muscle,” Joyner says. “And the more active that skeletal muscle is, the more glucose it’s going to burn. Muscle contraction leads to whole series of events that enable muscles to use glucose efficiently and make the body more sensitive to insulin.”
The importance of lifting weights while losing weight
Lifting weights can be especially important when you’re trying to lose weight, Joyner says. That’s because when you restrict your caloric intake, your body burns muscle as well as fat for fuel, contributing to the muscle loss that comes naturally with age.
“That loss of muscle mass is less of a problem if you strength-train while you lose weight,” Joyner says. “Instead of losing about 60 percent fat and 40 percent muscle mass, it will be more like 80/20.”
And because chest muscles are relatively large, they contain a lot of muscle fibers that can be developed.