You might be surprised to learn that our muscular system is the largest organ system in the body. In fact, it makes up 45% of our body mass. Muscles are central to our overall health as they help to regulate our metabolism, and maintain our posture, movement, and breathing.
As we begin to lose muscle mass, typically in our thirties, building and maintaining healthy muscles as we age is important. Don’t worry, you won’t look like The Hulk if you participate in regular strength training, but you will reap the many health benefits associated with having a strong, intact muscular system:
Increased longevity. New research suggests that having strong muscles has a direct effect on how long you live. Muscle mass correlates with a decrease in all-cause mortality. Simply put, the more muscle mass you have, the lesser the risk you have of dying from a chronic disease.
They keep us strong. Muscles power all our movements from turning our head, to walking up a hill, to lifting a heavy box.
Muscles help regulate blood-sugar levels. During a strength-training workout, we use stored muscle glycogen for fuel. Once this run out, we start to mobilize extra glycogen from the liver and blood. This helps to decrease blood-sugar levels and allows storage space for glucose at our next meal.
Muscles support bones and joints. Weight-bearing exercise helps to stimulate bone density, which keeps your bones strong and strengthens the muscles around your joints. This may help not only decrease risk of bone fractures and pain as we age, but also improve our range of movement.
Muscles help burn more calories. Studies show that 10lbs of muscle burns about 50 calories in a day, while 10lbs of fat burns just 20 calories. It might not seem substantial, but over time it adds up!
Muscles build strength and stamina. Strength and stamina come from new muscle growth, as well as new energy from the “mitochondria” (the power house of our cells).
A beginner’s strength-training workout takes about 30 minutes 3 days a week. As long as you are taking the muscle to fatigue – meaning you can’t lift another repetition – you are making the muscle stronger. While nutrition is also key to our overall health, maintaining muscle is one of the most important aspects of long-term health and longevity.
As always, check with your health care provider before starting a new health care regimen, diet, or supplement.
Meghan Punda, CRNP is a Nurse Practitioner and Functional Nutritionist. She works with women on lifestyle and dietary issues. Meghan is passionate about educating her clients so they can reach their full wellness potential.
Want to live longer and better? Do strength training. by, Harvard Health Publishing, February 15, 2021.
Strength training: Get stronger, leaner, healthier, by Mayo Clinic Staff, May 15, 2021.