January 11, 2021

Happy New Year

We already know about the power of the mind and that stimulating the brain with various tasks can improve cogitative function as we age. Well, improving and maintaining muscular strength will also benefit our health as we age. 

We will need all our strength and fortitude as the new year begins…., so here’s hoping for a better, brighter, healthier 2021 for us all!

Fitness For Health…

As we age our muscles naturally atrophy and become weaker and we lose around 1 – 3 % of lean muscle mass per decade. Muscles also naturally contract and get shorter with age, so it’s vital to build and maintain muscle mass, strength and flexibility for a better quality of life.

Muscles are made up of fibres and the microscopic fibres within them are called myofibrils. Myofibrils have tiny filaments within them called actin and myosin. Actin and myosin slide in and out between each other to form a muscle contraction. This action in scientific terms, is known as the sliding filament theory.

Muscle contractions are made from sliding actin and myosin.

Strength For Life..

We have different types of muscles in our bodies. Smooth, Cardiac and Skeletal.

Smooth muscles are involuntary meaning that you can’t control them. They are mainly found in your internal organs and eyes. Our digestive tract or the alimentary canal is controlled by these smooth muscles through peristalsis (wave like contraction and relaxation allowing food to pass through).

Cardiac muscle is found in your heart and is also involuntary like the smooth muscle. It has its own special rhythmic cells, called pacemaker cells to allow the heart muscle to beat and contract.

Skeletal muscles are attached to your bones by tendons and controlled by the voluntary movements of your body, such as, picking up an object, bending / stretching or walking.

The function of muscles also:

  • Provide structural support
  • Help to maintain posture
  • Generating heat, which helps maintain body temperature
  • Act as a source of nutrients such as amino acids
  • Serve as an energy source
It takes around 44 hours for the food you eat to pass through your digestive tract.

Muscles typically work in tandem by counteracting each other’s movements. If you are curling your arms up, your biceps are contracting and your triceps are relaxing. If you are doing a press up, your chest muscles are contracting and your upper back muscles are relaxing. If you you are doing crunches your abdomen is contracting and your back and spine muscles are relaxing.  Without this perfect synergy and relationship you would not be able to move. If both apposing muscles were contracting at the same time, we wouldn’t be able to move our bodies! 

You have 650 skeletal muscles in your body, and they make up between 40 – 50 percent of your bodyweight.

You can delay the onset of muscle atrophy by adding strength training to your weekly regime. You should try a muscular strength and endurance workout 2 – 3 times per week to keep your muscles in peak condition. Focus on compound exercises (exercises using more than one muscle group) with some isolation exercises to get you started and then build from there. 

Some examples:

  • Squats, Swings L/R Arm, , Shoulder Press
  • Press Ups, Plank, Oblique Cycles, Back Extensions
  • Forward Lunges, Lateral Raise, Side Lunges, Upright Rows
  • Skaters, Crunches,  Straight Arm Plank, Shoulder Bridges 

Use resistance band, hand weights, kettle bells and any other form of free weight or fixed resistance machine to build and maintain muscle strength. Start with a set amount of repetitions (15 – 20) and circuits (2 -3). As you get stronger increase your repetitions. When you reach your maximum repetitions (20 in this example) reduce the repetitions down to (15) and then increase the resistance. You can now progress again. This method will build gradual muscle strength safely and effectively.  Use a whole body approach when programming covering all muscle groups plus allowing for muscle balance.

As you progress try to vary your program with moderate to higher intensive exercises to further improve your muscular strength, endurance and overall fitness. You can also start to use time as a marker instead of a set amount of repetitions.

Some examples:

  • Shuttles Runs, Sit Ups, Squat & Press, Plank Step
  • Star Jumps, Side Crunches L/R side, Spiderman Push Ups
  • Knee Thrusts, Single Arm Squat & Press L/R Arm, Upright Row
  • Burpees, V Hold, Plank to Press Ups, Sit Up Rotations

There are plenty of modified exercises you can do to keep you focused and challenged as your fitness progresses. Just make sure you don’t push yourself too hard before you are physically ready to avoid injury. 

Focus on compound exercises to get you started..

There are many misconceptions with ladies regarding weight training, fearing looking too bulky or masculine. This is untrue. You would need to weight train for several hours a day, week after week for years for this to happen. General weight training will only enhance the way you look and feel. 

The health benefits to general weight training include:

  • a stronger heart (myocardium) the heart is a muscle and needs to be worked out like any other muscle. 
  • Helps to strengthens bones and connective tissue.
  • Helps to increases energy levels.
  • Helps with injury prevention and recovery
  • Helps control metabolism  
  • Improves muscle tone and strength.
  • Helps reduce body fat.
  • Helps maintain your ideal weight
As you fitness improves, vary your program with moderate to higher intensive exercises..

Muscle tissue is found throughout your body and its structure and function can be very diverse. As mentioned we have three different types of muscle, and skeletal muscles alone account for over 650 different muscles.

Your muscles perform many important functions that are critical to your health. So don’t be afraid of lifting some weights or pumping some iron to improve your overall health and vitality! 

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