Get Swole, Stay Swole, Be Healthy
Having Muscle is Preventative Health
Want to live longer? Have better quality of life? Want to avoid taking a slew of pills to keep you functioning?
I suggest the following:
Don't Skip Leg Day
Get Your Cardio in
Why do I say this? Because the three major determinants of keeping you alive longer that are completely in your control are leg strength, VO2 Max, and lean body mass.
Notice I did not mention anything about blood glucose levels, cholesterol levels, or avoiding any one symptom driven cause due to the fact that if you maintain a relatively high level of the above, your chances of dealing with health issues into your ladder ages decreases significantly. I first heard this concept from Dr. Andy Galpin a few months back and if you're interested in reading research I suggest going to his website (andygalpin.com) as he has some incredible free content that you can access.
Leg Strength and Lean Body Mass
Don't skip leg day has immense implications, especially as you age. Muscle mass and muscle quality play key roles in maintaining your bodily functions. Immune health, balance, glucose tolerance, body fat distribution, resting metabolism, energy levels, and heart health are all the benefactors of maintaining muscle composition. As we age, losing muscle encourages osteoporosis, diabetes, body fat, and increase risks of falls. We are living in a time where people are getting diabetes at 40 on a large scale, are already obese by 25 and fighting for your health at 50. So let's dive into why lifting weights now and continuing to do so is essential and why being a jacked grandfather or grandmother is in your best interests.
Muscle As Storage Site
Before digging deeper into other underlying causes, it is important to note the function of muscle outside the scope of strength and visuals. Our number one storage site for consumed sugars is our muscle tissue via glycogen. We convert excess sugars in our diet and shoot some emergency stores into our liver with the rest being deposited into our muscles. Muscle tissue also is a major storage site for proteins that have many numerous functions in our body. All of the following are require protein to drive their process: cell replication, growth of our hair, skin, and and nails, digestive enzymes and most importantly immune cells.. What does this mean? In a crisis when you're sick or fighting off a bug you have plenty amino acids (raw materials) that can be extracted to be utilized for other bodily functions to help you recover and live to fight another day.
This is the elephant in the room that has recently been getting the much needed attention in the medical field but not so much in practical knowledge of fitness professionals. Sarcopenia, degenerative muscle loss, begins at the age of 30 at a rate of 3-8% each decade thereafter. As stated above, muscle is the primary storage site of glucose (sugars) in the form of glycogen. As muscle is lost, we lose the ability to store sugar at the capacity that we had before which leads to one of two things, but typically both:
Increased Fat Storage
Increased Circulating Blood Sugar
We do not want this since this leads to increased fatness and terrible hormone balance and low energy. AKA the perfect storm for taking tons of pills and poor health. With decreased activity being an incredible issue, sarcopenia is beginning to creep into younger ages as well. There are some other factors that can contribute to sarcopenia such as chronic inflammation, hormone imbalance, and genetic factors. At the end of the day, you can train and slow this process down immensely with due diligence of resistance training and activity.
Diabetes (Type-2) and sarcopenia are friends. They hold hands together as they slowly degrade your health. As we lose muscle, we also lose the signaling pathways that handle transportation of glucose inside of cells. To get an insight of what is occurring within the cell, in the normal scenario after you consume a nice meal your body breaks down ingested foods and release sugar into the blood stream. Your pancreas releases insulin to transport these sugars into usage or (for this framework) storage. You have transporters, GLUT4 receptors, that are signaled by muscle to surface within the cell to retrieve the sugars and transport them into target cells. On the other hand, when lean tissue loses it's quality and mass these transport systems lose their function and you no longer have the capability to store glucose. Glucose intolerance begins and so does the gain of adipose tissue (fat).
Lose Muscle = Decreased Glucose Uptake = Increased Chance of Diabetes
When lifting, your muscles are not the only bodily function that is getting stronger. Your ligaments, tendons, and bones receive a training effect as well. Bones become more dense and increase the rate of calcium storage. The role of bone is to provide support and protection for bodily soft tissue, create red and white blood cells, control blood acidity among other functions. In elderly, falling is a serious risk that can impair an individual permanently. Losing the ability to sustain themselves and needing assistant living and loss of independence. Other factors play a part in the progression of osteoporosis but a huge determinant of decreasing the likelihood of the onset of osteoporosis are weight-bearing exercise and diet.
Your aerobic capacity is extremely essential. In short, VO2 max is your maximal ability to consume oxygen to meet the demands of operating organs in your body. Decreased muscle mass, exercise, and increased age are the key detractors of VO2 max. The normal ranges of VO2 range between 30-60 ml/kg/min. However, this is age dependent and a V02 max in the 30s is fairly poor for anyone under the age of 60. Now, you do not need to have a V02 of an Olympian but having a solid aerobic capacity has numerous of benefits.
Increased Blood Penetration
Having solid VO2 comes in hand with an increased blood volume. In a healthy individual, increased blood volume is essential since you have also trained the capacity to carry that blood via capillary density, increased stroke volume (how much blood your heart pumps in a single pump), and muscle size. Better blood flow and support systems of that blood flow increases nutrient proliferation into your muscles and organs.
Improved Life Functional Capacity
I know this subtitle is a mouthful, but what this means is your ability to carry out day to day functions. For example, going to the grocery store and pushing a cart should not be a taxing endeavor. In the case for some, this activity can be stressful alongside carrying the groceries, standing up, walking up stairs, or simply walking can be taxing. When your VO2 max is appreciable, these factors of life can be enjoyed without having day to day tasks being stressful and tiring.
Being strong, via activity and lifting does wonders for the body. We cannot control all aspects of life but what we can do is keep ourselves active to ensure the quality of our lives is appreciable. Muscle has become better understood over the years and the importance of the up keep of our muscle is irrefutable. Research is moving fast and there will be more discoveries in the health and human performance fields as time progresses have the possibility to unveil more nuggets to improve our life. At the end of the day, we have all the tools necessary to own our health and move toward a preventative lifestyle that will encourage health, longevity, and overall quality of life. If you already have health issues, you can take action and make steps towards improvement. Lifting and exercising already your lifestyle? You're heading down the right path for long-term health and quality of life.
Brooke, M., Wilkinson, D., Phillips, B., Perez-Schindler, J., Philp, A., Smith, K., & Atherton, P. (2016). Skeletal muscle homeostasis and plasticity in youth and ageing: impact on nutrition and exercise. Acta Physiologica, 15-41.
Flack, D. K., Davy, P. K., Hulver, W. M., Winett, A. R., Frisard, I. M., & Davy, M. B. (2010). Aging, Resistance Training, and Diabetes Prevention. Journal of Aging Research, 1-11.
Haomia, J., & Lubetkin, E. I. (2014). Comparing Quality-Adjusted Life Expectancy at Different Levels of Physical Activity. Journal of Physical Activity & Health, 278-284.
Kim, C.-H., Wheatley, C. M., Behnia, M., & Johnson, B. (2016). The Effect of Aging on Relationships between Lean Body Mass and VO2max in Rowers. PLOS ONE, 1-11.
Ozaki, H., Loenneke, J. P., Thiebaud, R. S., & Abe, T. (2013). Resistance training induced increase in VO2max in young and older subjects. European Group for Research into Elderly and Physical Activity, 107-116.