When we think about muscle, we tend to think about gyms, sports people, six-packs and biceps. We generally associate muscle with movement. We do not tend to think about muscle and our overall health.
The main function of muscle goes way beyond movement. It is the foundation of metabolism and our suit of armour. If our muscles are healthy, we live better. It is often said that muscle holds the key to longevity.
As we age, we lose muscle mass (this starts in our 30s). Gradually, we get weaker, experience decreased mobility and have an increased risk of falls. This loss of muscle mass is also associated with diseases such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Skeletal muscle helps to regulate blood sugar. The stronger and healthier the muscle is the more carbohydrate and fat your body burns, and you are more likely to have lower blood pressure and better cholesterol as well.
It is never too late to start to improve our muscles, and the older we get, the more important it is for our overall health that we look after them and help to reverse the decline. This does not mean lifting heavy weights. It is about starting somewhere and building up your strength. Doing basic bodyweight movements such as squats and press-ups (these can be done against the wall) all help to maintain muscle mass. The other important thing is to eat enough protein. Proteins such as meat, fish, eggs, nuts and pulses are vital to help maintain muscle. For vegans, it is super important to ensure you are getting the right amount of protein.
Muscle is key to helping us to keep moving as we get older: to keep us healthy, help to protect us against falls and reduce the risk of diseases. Maintaining good muscle strength is not just for “sports” people – we should all look after our muscles for our overall health.
Ann de Jongh is a health & Wellbeing Coach
+351 913 202 621