• Nigel

Muscle is Everything

There’s no doubting that muscle looks great on young adult bodies. It’s also a time in our lives when we tend to have less body fat and we use our bodies in a more physically demanding way, through team sports, endurance events, track, field and all manner of activities to challenge us and enhance our life experiences. We’d all probably refer to that period as our being in our physical prime.

But looking good, feeling good, being able to undertake significant physical feats and having muscle isn’t the preserve of the younger. Yes, there’s a level of muscle loss due to ageing, but only if you allow this. Just because we’re ‘out of our prime’ isn’t doesn’t mean that we need our muscle less. Muscle is needed throughout our whole lives. In fact, we need it even more as we age. To keep us moving and active for better quality of life, to help burn calories, to help keep body fat at bay, to help keep disease away, to help keep ageing joints and bones strong, to still be able to compete and undertake impressive physical activities, even for activities of daily living such as managing the stairs or standing from sitting. Loss of muscle and strength will affect balance and, in our golden years, our ability to recover ourselves from impending trips and falls, leading to injuries and fractures. Believe me, muscle is everything.

And if you don’t use it you will lose it. Sadly, too many do. The more sedentary we are, the faster the rate of loss will be. Whether it’s societal pressures or even perception, it’s as if its not seen as important any more once we’ve left our prime. The distractions of busy lives, work and raising families impact on our time and, if we let it, contribute to us spending less time being active. We can start to forget the need for us to take care of ourselves. As a result, including poorer eating habits, we tend to get heavier. Fat replaces muscle.

The heavier we get, the slower we get. The slower we get, the harder it is to burn calories. Muscles will start wasting away, making you weaker, making it harder to get around. It’s a vicious circle of muscle wastage and fat accumulation, leading to higher likelihoods of chronic disease and premature death. Sorry if this sounds brutal. But this is the consequence of not knowing or understanding that muscle is everything.

The good news is that, for both men and women of all ages, the rate of muscle loss can be slowed, stopped and even reversed through resistance training (bodyweight and weight training in old money). Don’t just take my word for it. It’s recommended by the Government and the NHS that older adults, just like everyone else, should do strengthening exercises that work all major muscle groups on at least 2 days per week. This of course should be combined with aerobic exercise and a healthy and balance diet, because no-one can out-train a bad diet.

All of this can be achieved at home as well as the gym. Squats (with and without weights) can be done in your lounge. These should be a staple exercise for everyone. These will help ensure that you can stand from sitting unassisted throughout your lifetime. Walking lunges will help improve strength, balance and improve your core. Exercises such as these will provide you with strong legs and a stable base, to provide a platform from which more strenuous exercise can be undertaken. Strong legs will keep you mobile and help prevent trips from becoming falls. Strong legs have strong muscles. We like muscles. Muscle is everything.

I was like most people during my 40s. I was active but everything ached more. I just accepted it as the natural aging process. Don't accept it. A bad back wake up call, a bit of hard work and learning about good nutrition has transformed me into the fittest and healthiest I’ve ever been. I feel great. I rarely get ill. You can be this way too. Being older and wiser, I wouldn’t want to be in my 20s now. Why would I? I’m even better than in my prime.

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