It’s not often that I can throw out blanket statements related to health but here it is: increasing skeletal muscle mass is one of the best things you can do for your overall health - no matter your age, gender, or health status. Here are a few (of many) reasons why:
1. Energy Metabolism & Weight Loss: Muscle tissue contributes approximately 20% to total daily energy expenditure (which helps us burn calories) compared to 5% contribution from fat tissue. In other words, you burn more calories at rest just by having muscle tissue.
2. Bone – Contracting muscle exerts a force on bone, which alters its morphology to ultimately improve bone strength. There’s also a proposed ‘cross-talk’ between muscle and bone, where muscles secrete various signalling molecules to regulate bone health. (Similar to hormones!) Rates of osteoporosis are higher in those with lower muscle mass. So, to be proactive and preventative, women should include resistance strength training decades before osteoporosis is assessed and diagnosed.
3. Reservoir for amino acids – Amino acids are the basic building blocks of protein and the body calls upon muscle stores when needed- like during illness or chronic disease when energy requirements are higher. (Remember, approx. 44% of Canadians have a chronic condition!) For instance, lower muscle mass has been associated with a delayed recovery from illness.
4. Blood sugar control – Muscle that's been recently physically active doesn’t require insulin for glucose uptake following a meal. When we’re sedentary or inactive for prolonged periods of time, our skeletal muscle (and other tissues) relies on insulin for uptake of glucose out of the blood and into our cells. Pair this with overeating – especially refined carbohydrates – and it paves the way for insulin resistance, as the body begins to 'ignore' insulin, as seen with Type 2 Diabetes and PCOS. In fact, a recent study found that diabetics walking 10min after each meal was associated with better glucose control than walking 30min daily.
5. Confidence – More muscle tone can improve confidence, pride and a heightened self-esteem. One of the best feelings is that sense of accomplishment after completing a work-out.
How to do it?
Thankfully, there are lots of options, with the key being consistency and frequency. With muscles, if you don't use them, you lose them.
Sports/Activities, resistance training, HIIT, Pilates, swimming, biking, yoga, walking, etc. will all challenge muscles in different ways, but lifting weights is most effective for building muscle and preventing muscle loss. Our town has great options through several gyms, Sweat Happy Reformer Pilates, Yoga studios, Spin Cycle, CrossFit, Bootcamp, etc.
Consider reaching out to a personal trainer for an individualized plan and to ensure you have correct form and adequate joint mobility to avoid injury. They can also create a plan based on your current fitness level.
1. Exercises like push-ups, planks, and wall sits are easy to incorporate throughout your day if you’re unable to get to the gym or a class. Doing 10-20 push-ups a few times per day, a few times per week can go a long way since it's a full body exercise targeting multiple muscles. Working out doesn't have to be all or nothing. You can still improve muscle mass without leaving your house or even putting gym clothes on.
2. Create a small home gym - If you don't need motivation from others or are time-restricted, invest in some dumbbells, a kettle bell and exercise mat and you're golden.
3. Online exercise videos - I think by now you all know I'm a big fan of Fitnessblender for their HIIT and Strength training videos. They're free and amazing.
For the record, there is no such thing as a men's or women's push-up. There are push-ups, or modified push-ups (done from knees.) Ladies - challenge yourselves to do push-ups without modifications, it's not just for men!
If energy, motivation, mood, pain or any other factor is getting in the way of you increasing your physical activity, let's chat and I can help.