Why your muscle matters

Muscle health may seem like a topic reserved for only body builders and gym junkies. But this is far from true. As human beings, we all have muscles and as it turns out, our muscle mass can be a predictor of our longevity.


Muscle makes up about 40% of our body mass and is not only responsible for all of the body’s movement, but it supports essential functions in our body such as breathing, heartbeat, blood flow and digestion. In addition, muscle is largely responsible for maintaining our metabolism. It also plays a role in the development and maintenance of obesity, and insulin resistance and diabetes.

It has been widely acknowledged that a side effect of aging can be a loss of muscle mass and strength. This is known as sarcopenia. However, sarcopenia is not an inevitable part of ageing, and it is also not only restricted to the elderly. It can affect younger people with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.

With the majority of the world experiencing lockdown and restrictions this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals have seen changes to their physical activity and dietary intakes. Both of which have the potential to accelerate sarcopenia, as well as increases in body fat.

Taking muscle health seriously, is something that we ALL can all benefit from!

A study that tracked more than 4000 Americans aged 50 years and older from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) wanted to determine if sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass and strength) increased risk of death.

Interestingly, participants with low muscle mass were more likely to have:
  • cardiovascular diseases and diabetes,
  • higher BMI and fat mass,
  • systolic blood pressure,
  • serum concentration of total triglycerides,
  • fasting glucose and fasting insulin,
  • and HOMA-IR, and lower diastolic blood pressure and
  • serum concentrations of high-density lipoprotein

Comparing to those with normal muscle mass.

Those with low muscle strength had:
  • higher systolic blood pressure,
  • lower diastolic blood pressure,
  • higher serum concentrations of low-density lipoprotein,
  • and higher likelihood of CVD, diabetes, cancer, COPD, and CKD

Comparing to those with high muscle strength.

Low muscle strength was strongly associated with all-cause mortality, while low muscle mass was not. Those in the subgroup with low muscle mass had significantly increased risk for all-cause mortality only when they also had low muscle strength. These results were independent of the presence of Metabolic Syndrome, or time spent in leisure time physical activity or spent in sedentary activities.

This may suggest that muscle strength may be more important than muscle mass in predicting age-related health outcomes in the older and elderly population.

muscle How can we improve and protect the health of our muscles?

Now that we can see that the strength of our muscles is so important, what can we do about it?  Exercise should be considered of prime importance in attempting to halt and even reverse the progression of sarcopenia and improve and maintain the health and strength of your muscles.

Here is how to get started:

  • Resistance training can include free weights, weight machines, resistance bands as well as your own body weight
  • As a beginner it is great to start with two or three training sessions per week. These training sessions can consist of 8-10 exercises, performing each exercise a minimum of 8 times (reps). Over time your sessions can increase in the sets of reps.
  • It is a good idea to consult a professional such as your health care provider, physiotherapist, exercise physiologist or a qualified and registered personal trainer.
  • Be sure to rest muscle groups for at least 48hrs to maximise recovery and strength
  • Mix things up and vary your workouts.

Information care of Orthoplex and Better Health Victoria.


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