Body Mass (BMI) or Muscle Mass: Which Is More Important for a Long, Healthy Life?

Jan building muscle mass with Abstract Bodyworks

Jan, age 64, is using the Abstract Bodyworks program to increase muscle mass. She is able to work out in her street clothes.

Americans are obsessed with the notion that they need to be thin to be healthy.  Stores are filled with “diet” foods, reduced fat and sugar free options that suggest if we eat them, we will be healthy.  Print and television ads overwhelmingly show thin people, implying that you must be thin to be healthy.

The fitness industry has focused on losing fat for decades.  From P90X to Zumba to the Insanity Workout, we are bombarded with exercise programs that tell us we have to “get shredded,” suffer pain and deprive ourselves to become fit and healthy.

While healthcare professionals typically do not promote such extreme views, their primary tool for measuring fitness is your body mass index, or BMI.  Your BMI is the percentage of body fat based on your weight and height.  The assumption is that by lowering your body fat and maintaining a optimal BMI, you will become healthier and live a longer life.

However, an increasing body of research shows that instead of focusing on lowering body fat, we should be more concerned with building muscle mass and bone strength.

A recent study by the University of California – Los Angeles Health Sciences concluded that “the more muscle mass older Americans have, the less likely they are to die prematurely.”1  Even in dialysis patients, higher muscle mass has been linked to better physical function and a better quality of life.2  In other words, becoming stronger is a key factor in living a longer, healthier life.

We are not suggesting that obesity is not a serious medical issue.  Carrying large amounts of excess weight can create stress and damage to a number of your body’s systems, such as your heart, lungs, liver and joints.  Maintaining a sensible diet and keeping physically active are a good goals too!  In fact, many of our clients lose weight and inches by participating in our program as a side effect of becoming stronger.  But all things being equal, building muscle mass and bone strength are a more important goal.

To put it bluntly, you can be lean and frail or fat and frail, but you cannot be strong and frail.  We focus too much on people being fat.  To live long, healthy lives, we need to focus on people being strong.

At Abstract Bodyworks, our philosophy is that strong muscles and strong bones are the foundation of a strong body.  Instead of spending hours at the gym doing long, grueling workouts, we offer proper exercises specifically designed to increase muscle mass and bone strength.  Our exercise programs only take 15 minutes, once or twice a week to complete, and you can do them in your street clothes.  You will receive one-on-one, private attention from one of our trained, professional instructors whose goal is to help you maximize the effectiveness of the exercises — not to pressure you into losing weight, getting ripped, or having 6-pack abs.

We invite you find out the difference Abstract Bodyworks can make for yourself.  Call us or fill out our online form and receive your free, 2 Session Trial.  Let us show you how 15 minutes a week can change your life.

1 Older adults: Build muscle and you’ll live longer (

2 Higher muscle mass linked with better physical function, qualify of life in dialysis patients (