Skeletal muscle is our largest organ, yet it’s also the most neglected.
And longevity? It doesn’t only mean living longer, but also living better. We’re not talking about adding years to your life, rather life to your years - to “die young” as late as possible!
When the topic of exercise comes up with my patients, it’s way too often that I hear about their walking routine…only. Brisk walking is an awesome way to stay active, but when it serves as their one and only method of exercise, there’s a major problem.
Our society’s problem isn’t so much about being over-fat as it is under-muscled. And weight isn’t relevant here - at 65, you can weigh the same as you did at 25 while having twice the fat and half the muscle. It’s a major reason people end up in a nursing home. They may not be sick, but they can’t get up out of a chair, and they have a fall leading to a broken hip.
I just recently had a patient tell me her provider was considering starting her on a statin for cholesterol and metformin for her pre-diabetes. “What can I do?” she asked, hoping to avoid adding two more prescriptions to her regimen. My answer was simple: “Get moving!”
Muscle is not only used for locomotion. There’s much more to it than you might imagine. It’s a reservoir for glucose and it burns calories throughout the day. As muscles dwindle, key wellness factors like insulin, testosterone, cortisol, growth hormone, and blood sugar (just to name a few!) are affected as well. This means risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, and dementia are also in the picture.
So when you think about what changes you might make to better your physical and mental self, think beyond walking and jogging. And don’t set a weight goal. Set waist circumference and water intake goals - those are much more impactful than looking for a number on the scale!
I promise you don’t need a personal trainer or a gym membership to execute the goal at hand. Beneficial, weight-bearing exercises can be as simple as air squats. Even better, add some easy-to-hold household items for even more benefit.
Don’t put too much emphasis on one particular muscle group, but I will note that your largest muscles are those in your lower body and working them regularly can provide a great boost to your metabolism. Also, a strong foundation there will provide much-appreciated support for the future you.
Add resistance training to your exercise routine and set yourself up to live your best possible life for the years ahead!