Because we cannot really see our muscles we tend to forget about their importance and most of us have no idea of how much they can affect our health and well-being especially as we get older. Not only do our muscles hold us upright and hold our bones together they are the mechanism that drives our bodies engine (our metabolism) and our means of movement.
They allow us to run, jump, throw and lift heavy objects or do precise work such as threading a tiny needle or painting a picture. We expect that our muscles will always be there for us and will continue to work in the background like faithful servants never complaining. But if we don’t keep them strong with muscle building and maintaining activity we are most certainly going to lose them.
The average man and woman between the ages of 20 and 50 years who does not have a proper strengthening exercise program in place will lose one half pound of muscle per year. This amount seems small and it is, but the problem is it is cumulative. It snowballs little by little, bit by bit till after a decade it is 5 pounds and after 30 years it is 15 pounds.
Then we have a problem – the loss of 15 pounds of muscle tissue is a serious issue and may manifest itself in physical ailments such as lower back pain, painful knees or shoulders, diabetes, arthritis or even heart disease. And from there on it is a downward spiral of degeneration that we used to call the aging process but now we know it is nothing more than not enough proper exercise.
To make matters worse along with the loss of muscle tissue ounce by ounce, the average man and woman is gaining body fat at triple the rate – around 1½ pounds each year. This adds up to 15 pounds per decade or a staggering 45 pound body fat gain over 30 years. Yikes!
This fat gain is usually hidden as it pads the areas that have lost muscle tissue filling in the spaces and of course the bathroom scales do not show the true picture as the fat gain hides the muscle loss. The scales only show the overall increase in body weight as 30 pounds.
But with the loss of 15 pounds of muscle and the gain of 45 pounds of fat the body composition is a very changed scenario. You now have a ticking time bomb as far as health risks go. This loss of muscle not only weakens the entire body it weakens the immune system as well leaving one at risk of major disease especially the ‘big three’ villains, heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
But you don’t have to go down this path. It takes just 2-3 sessions each week of a proper exercise program containing mostly strength training exercise to avoid this negative health situation. But is has to be strength training exercise. Do not think that long, slow activities like walking, jogging or cycling will ever stop muscle tissue loss because it won’t – not now – not anytime soon – not ever.
It’s a shame if you might think that simply going to the gym and logging your 45 minutes on the elliptical is enough, but skipping strength training is a HUGE mistake. By ignoring strength training, you are robbing both your bones and muscles of the opportunity to strengthen and grow.
Strength training offers a plethora of benefits, including improved glucose control, healthy heart tissue, weight maintenance, increased bone density, arthritis relief and more. In addition, muscle at rest burns more calories than fat, so strength training to build muscle can aid in weight loss efforts as well.
The importance of muscle tone
Adding strength training to your fitness routine isn’t just about looking amazing in a bikini. Maintaining muscle tone is important at every age. Muscles, like everything else in the human body, degrade over time. As we age we must take extra care of our bodies which means being proactive and taking care of ourselves from an early age, before muscles start degenerating, can help maintain the integrity of our muscles for a longer period of time.
As we get older, especially toward middle age and onward, the struggle to keep muscle tone increases even more with a condition known as sarcopenia, which is a degenerative process that we used to believe, was simply associated with aging. But now we know it is caused by a lifetime of lack of muscle maintenance.
Loss of muscle tone is often more significant in the lower extremities, leading to a decreased ability to walk and balance yourself, which then leads to a greater risk of falls and other injuries. When you lose muscle, your strength and energy levels also decrease, as does metabolism. This muscle loss can only be combated by strength training throughout your life, which will help maintain the strong, healthy muscles you need to function properly.
The image of an ideal exercise program has shifted dramatically in the last decade. Gone are the long hours of repetitive aerobic exercise sessions at 60-80 percent of maximal heart rate.
The new model rests on shorter, more intense exercise periods. Strength training exercise is perfect as it provides these exact definitions by the slow controlled loading of major muscle groups through their ranges of movement under an adequate load of resistance.
This makes up for the lack of activity in our modern lifestyles and can provide a fast, effective method of keeping strength.
Get yourself protection from this debilitating degeneration and the risk of disease and get yourself started on a program to combat the outgoing tide of physical decay that our modern “work” free inactive and seated lifestyles are causing us.
The main thing is to begin. The “use it or lose it” maxim definitely applies to muscle mass and strength. To get you started I have a simple set of eBooks about different methods of keeping your strength. There is one devoted to strength training exercise which you can do in a gym or at home.
The books can be seen here:
For more tools and resources from Carolyn Hansen to assist you in attaining your goals and achieving the success you desire in life, please visit: