The Science of Strength
We need to build and maintain muscle – regardless of our age and fitness goals. Possessing strong, lean muscles is not only important for how we look, it’s also essential for enduring wellness. Our health reserves exist in our muscle. If illness, surgery, or another stressful event occurs, our body will naturally use muscle tissue to support us during the experience. Without sufficient muscle tissue, organ function may become compromised. Some studies have actually found a 20 to 30% reduction in lifespan associated with muscle tissue loss!
Why Do We Need Muscle?
As a highly metabolically active tissue, muscle maintains metabolic rate. Simply stated, the more muscle we have, the more calories we can burn each day – even while we sleep. Muscle tissue provides structural strength, aids bone density and can prevent injury due to falls. Next to a highly nutritious calorie-restricted diet, maintaining muscle is proven as the next best method to slowing down the aging process.
Loss of muscle mass is accompanied with a relative increase in body fat and metabolic decline. These unfavourable changes in body composition and function can lead to insulin resistance, a precursor to health risks such as obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 Diabetes, and certain types of cancers.
Is Proper Nutrition and Regular Exercise Enough to Preserve Strength?
Research shows that muscle strength declines by 15% per decade after age 50, and 30% per decade after age 70. Scientists have found that people lose strength and muscle tissue not because they grow older, but because they stop doing activities that use muscle power. The combination of reduced strength and lower activity levels can lead to an increased incidence of falls and decreased walking ability. Surprisingly, test results over the past 20 years have also shown that muscle tissue degenerates even in people who maintain a high level of activity.
Why Do We Lose Muscle Tissue or Experience Increased Difficulty Building Muscle with Age?
Mitochondria are the factory-centre of cells that produce energy needed for muscle work. As the dysfunction of mitochondria increases, muscle performance decreases. Ultimately, muscle cells weaken and eventually may die. If we can slow dysfunction of muscle mitochondria, we can also decrease the loss of effectiveness of muscle work. To effectively do this, we must combat the known causes of muscle cell aging including:
1) Poor nutrition.
a. A deficiency of protein, carbohydrates and fats compromises performance, muscle growth and repair.
b. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies also cause long-term complications.
2) Free radical damage of muscle cells. This is a primary cause of muscle cell mitochondrial dysfunction and death.
3) Inflammation causes tissue destruction and disease. Inflammation also leads to increased healing time after exercise and ultimately to poor recovery after workouts. One of the major contributors to inflammation in our bodies is consuming foods that weaken our systems or that we are sensitive to. If you find much of the time you eat, you are later bothered by feeling sluggish or unwell, think about food sensitivity testing.
4) Increased stress hormone. Our long-term stress hormone, cortisol, naturally elevates with age as well as stress of any kind (mental, emotional, physical, environmental), over-training and sleep deprivation. Cortisol is known to destroy muscle fiber and to cause a loss of muscle mass.
5) Hormonal decline.
a. Loss of testosterone and DHEA (in both men and women) causes changes in libido, mood and well being, bone structure, fat accumulation and muscle mass.
b. A decrease in growth hormone (GH). GH rebuilds our bones, skin and muscle cells while we sleep and after exercise. It also prevents abdominal fat.
Alright so now that you have been lectured on the importance of strength training, where do you begin? Cruise on back through the archives of my blog for sample workouts, most of which you can do at home, or try buying some videos like The Biggest Loser series, Kathy Smith, Denise Austin, Tracey Anderson or google great workout ideas. You could also buy a few magazines for some ideas with pictures, or join a group class or activity; just remember it needs to be load bearing. Aquafit, Tai Chi, Nia and cardio alone won’t cut it!
Bootcamps are a great place for motivation, some healthy competition and quick results. Check out my blog info on my summer camps for more news.
My best piece of advice would be to hire a trainer, especially if you are just starting out or have a very specific goal or any history of injury. Most session will be about 60 minutes in length and range in price from $55-$75 per hour or 30 minute express session $35-$45 per 1/2 hour.
Ask around to friends, co-workers or family for a great trainer in your area.
If you in live in my area (Newmarket) call me!