Did you know you have more than 600 muscles in your body and they are almost half the body’s weight. They do everything from pumping blood throughout your body to helping you lift your heavy backpack. You control some of your muscles, while others — like your heart — do their jobs without you thinking about them at all. Muscles are all made of the same material, a type of elastic tissue, thousands or even tens of thousands of small fibres make up each muscle.
Muscles are the part of our body that allow us to move, a skeleton without muscles is useless. Muscles are able to contract and relax. When they contract, they pull on your skeleton allowing you to move. Muscles are connected to bones by tough, cord-like tissues called tendons, which allow the muscles to pull on bones.
Everything you do needs muscles, the muscles of your larynx, mouth and tongue to speak, the muscles of your finger to write or for your skeletal muscles to help your movement – walking, running, swimming. And the good news is they are efficient at turning fuel into motion, they are long-lasting, they are self-healing and they are able to grow stronger with practice.
You have three different types of muscles in your body: smooth muscle, cardiac muscle, and skeletal muscle.
Smooth muscle is found in your digestive system, blood vessels, bladder, airways and, in a female, the uterus, and has the ability to stretch and maintain tension for long periods of time. Your nervous system controls it automatically meaning you do not have to think about contracting the muscles. For example, your stomach and intestines do their muscular thing all day long. Smooth muscle is also found in the walls of blood vessels, where it squeezes the stream of blood flowing through the vessels to help maintain blood pressure.
Cardiac muscle is found only in your heart and the walls of the heart’s chambers are composed almost entirely of muscle fibres. Cardiac muscle is also an involuntary type of muscle. Its rhythmic, powerful contractions force blood out of the heart as it beats.
Skeletal muscle is attached to bone, mostly in the legs, arms, abdomen, chest, neck, and face, they hold the skeleton together, give the body shape, and help it with everyday movements and are known as as voluntary muscles because you can control their movement.
Muscle strength is one of the keys to healthy ageing, after we achieve peak mass in our early 40s is when most people begin to lose modest amounts of muscle at that point and experience progressive deterioration as the years go by, especially if they have a sedentary lifestyle.
Regular exercise is an important component of keeping your muscles healthy because the more you work your muscles, the stronger they become. Activities such as swimming, running, walking and hiking are excellent activities that will challenge your muscles. Strength training is a more targeted form of working your muscles and increasing strength and endurance. Your personal trainer will advise on an appropriate form of training to benefit your muscle tone. When beginning any exercise program, it is important to start slowly, increase intensity in small increments and incorporate rest periods between workouts to allow muscles to repair themselves.
Diet is another important factor in keeping muscles healthy. Protein is important because it helps build and repair muscles. A special diet is not needed in order to ensure muscle health, as a well-rounded, balanced diet will provide sufficient nutrients. A balanced diet should be low in saturated fats, refined grains, sugar and cholesterol. Intake of fruits, vegetables, lean protein sources such as turkey, chicken and lean beef, nuts and low-fat dairy products should be high. Again your personal trainer will be able to advise on a healthy diet to complement the exercise program you are following. And remember adequate amounts of water is important for the health of our muscles as well as our overall health and especially important to keep hydrated whilst exercising.
Muscular injuries are extremely common and can range from minor to severe but can be prevented by taking a few simple precautions. Warming up before exercise will help increase flexibility and make muscles warm and cooling down after exercise will help loosen muscles that have been tightened during exercise. When a muscle strain or injury does occur, it is important to not push through the pain but give your body time to heal.