When I heard this statement on a recent Smart Nutrition Made Simple podcast episode on Flexible Dieting with Alan Aragon, I was really taken aback at how profound of a statement this is.
I have been in the health and fitness field for over 25 years and conversations on the importance of muscle use and development has always been centered around the impetus for physical development, whether that be athletic performance, or the ability to perform a task or activity with more ease, however to hear this association between a decrease in muscle response and increase in disease potential is truly disturbing but at the same time, fantastic (oh and completely controllable by the way).
Let me clear, this is nothing new. We have long known the implication of not using your muscle, and the benefits of resistance training on disease prevention (and recovery from disease). However, what is new is the attention that is now being placed on muscle weakness (specifically muscle atrophy and inactivity rather than solely just as a strength indicator) and disease.
This is truly profound because it sheds light on the importance of muscle activity or more specifically the lack thereof.
I was a child of the 80’s and 90’s and a little beyond the Jane Fonda/Richard Simmons days, but there was enough of a carryover of the Aerobics generation to grasp the importance of doing aerobic exercise for Cardiovascular Health. To this day, cardio is still an important element in Heath health and the benefits of just a small amount of cardio and its effect on heart health is stellar.
Muscles are the same. However, society has always looked at muscle training more to do with athletic and aesthetic development rather than its association with disease, or disease prevention.
We could spend days debating the different ways to stimulate muscle growth and development, but when it comes to the basic level, in regards to today’s topic, the health benefit of actually doing SOME muscle development is far more important than doing NONE. It doesn’t take much work to maintain levels of muscle activity, but the implications of not doing anything can be life altering. You may not become the biggest, strongest, fastest, nor may you want to be, you may just be wanting to move a little easier, handle the activities of life with a little more assistance and feel better and that is great.
How are you stimulating your muscles on a daily basis?
More importantly, how are you NOT?
Increasing muscle activity doesn’t always mean joining a gym, or lifting heavy weights, it’s all about providing a level of stimulus to your working muscles slightly higher that they are not accustomed to. This could be as simply as repeatedly walking up and down stairs, to performing body weight squats in your living room, or as far as a structured workout routine. Either way the impact of your efforts will consistently distance yourself further from disease. I know how I would like to live the rest of my life, and if I can add a small inclusion of resistive exercise to activate my muscles each week to reap the large rewards of disease prevention, I think the answer speaks for itself.
Dr. Dan Dodd is an Exercise Science professional and Coach for BSL Nutrition. Dan is an avid writer on nutrition, exercise, metabolism and body composition. If you’d like to receive more stories, subscribe to his weekly emails.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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