by Paula | January 7, 2015 1:46 am
The importance of building and maintaining muscle really cannot be overstated. Regardless of age, having an adequate amount of muscle mass allows you to function normally in your day-to-day activities without undue fatigue and strain. But as you age, this muscle mass decreases and the only way to keep the level you need to be highly functioning, is through weight bearing exercises.
Muscle mass also gives you enhanced strength and function that affords an increased level of protection against musculoskeletal injury. Increased muscle strength helps better bone mineral density.
Building muscle also helps increase metabolism & fat burning and balances the ratio of lean mass to body fat. This helps decrease risk of becoming pre-diabetic, and helps defend against heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure and obesity-related health issues.
In addition, the psychological benefit of feeling strong and looking fit is an important motivational factor for adhering to a tough workout program for many. It’s empowering to know that you are doing something important for yourself and your long term health.
Muscle building doesn’t need to happen only in a gym. Resistance training can happen in your home with dumbbells, or weight bearing exercises such as push-ups, chair dips and crunches. When you engage in weight bearing fitness, you are contracting muscles against a resistive load, increasing the amount of tension developed by muscle fibers in response to a stimulus (resistance exercise). Researchers believe that this type of tension slightly damages the muscle tissue, causing a growth response. That healing process is what increases the muscle growth. If your doctor approves, lift progressively heavier weight loads and/or perform harder bodyweight exercises as you become stronger. Performing endless repetitions with a light weight does not promote muscle growth.
Allowing muscles to rest and regenerate between challenging workouts will keep your muscle-building goals on track and will help prevent overuse injuries due to overtraining. Bodybuilders have figured out how to work around this important principle by performing split routines. These allow them to train most days of the week by focusing on specific muscles each day. An example of a split routine is to work the chest, shoulders and triceps on Monday, followed by legs on Wednesday, and finish with back and biceps on Friday.
Recognizing the positive effects that muscle building has on your health as well as your physique can help you stay consistent with your fitness plan for longer.
Schoenfeld, B.J. (2010). The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training.Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 2010, 24, 10, 2857–72. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181e840f3. Review.
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