We are all part of an amazing species.
We are also very talented in our ability to move and engage with our physical environment. This is partly because our body is built around 200 joints which help us to maintain our equilibrium (our balance), to catch things, manipulate objects with precision and to accomplish varied activities such as swimming, running, jumping and throwing.
It is the combination of these abilities which have enabled the human race to survive and prosper.
Specifically, how do we do all these things? By using our muscular system in a coordinated fashion. More than 600 muscles are utilised to move our body around. Our tongue, for example, is a muscle, just as our heart or eyes are. In addition, 27 muscles control our hands and forearms alone, 19 of which are localised around our shoulder joints.
It is this interaction between our muscles and brain that allows us to run fast, lift weights heavier than us and survive.
But muscles are not only used to perform. They also play a role in our more general health. How? By helping us to move or create a motion they contribute to the production of nutrients for our cartilage. This is the fine tissue that has a central role in facilitating the slippage between our bones to avoid too much friction (which can be damaging when it occurs). As such, and with regards to inactivity, one of the major risks we face is a slow deterioration of this cartilage which can lead to arthritis.
Also, our muscles are the shield that protects our organs by reducing the stress on our joints. In this role they ease off the pressure (like a shock absorber) to our skeletal frame. When we walk, for example, we put a lot of pressure on our knee joints; more than twice our body weight or three times our total body weight when we engage in step climbing, and five times our body weight in terms of pressure when we jump.
No wonder medical professionals advise people to exercise.
Clients occasionally tell me they feel physically fatigued following exercise and ask if this is healthy. My response is that it is good to feel sore sometimes after exercising, as this is a sign of how the body is adapting to the challenge of a new workout routine or additional weight being added to the bar.
When we exercise, the body creates new filaments inside our muscles and, at the same time, we improve our muscular coordination. As a direct result, we feel these improvements as the body becomes stronger and better coordinated.
One of the great things about training yourself is that you come to a better understanding of how the body works and how best it can perform. It is a little similar to when a tennis player serves a ball; different muscles have to work together in synergy to complete the service motion efficiently.
I often think of that example when I train myself or a client. This is because when exercising we need to maintain good flexibility in our muscles whilst performing a physical motion so as to optimise the outcome. Exercising on a gym floor requires the same combination of the mental and physical as utilised by the tennis player in the example above: pace, technique, flexibility, these are the paramount qualities that are required in training and, if they are balanced well, the outcome is an optimal one.
It all comes down to having a clear understating of what we need to do when we exercise and how best to perform with our body during each exercise we undertake.
To get better when working out, it is just as important to train often in order to repeat and optimise the outcome of our exercises, to sometimes go over the line, and from this process to identify a new line you have reached or should reach. As the popular adage has it, exercise, like many things in life, is about practice, practice, practice, as this is the way our brains learn best.
Postural improvement is another positive outcome from exercising. A sedentary life (working long hours sitting at a desk, for example) will create an unhealthy unbalance in the body, as well as joint pain. Remember, our bodies are made to move!
So keep moving.
Inactivity can also bring on unhealthy neurological issues. Our muscles are not there to follow instructions sent from our brain. Scientists have discovered, for example, that when we instigate intense effort, our muscles produce thousands of myriad substances ( hundred of which are neurotransmitters). These neurotransmitters are very valuable, as they increase the efficiency of our immune system, help glucides to be assimilated by the liver, reduce fat storage, reduce the risk of inflammatory arthritis, stimulate the production of insulin and optimise the production of bone tissue.
Our muscles also have a direct impact on our brains. Indeed, they stimulate the growth of synapses (synapses help the connection between brain cells ). Before surgery to put in place a prosthesis to help joint support (or even replace them), for example, surgeons will often recommend that patients exercise specifically in order to reduce rehabilitation time, with the mental and physical process of rehabilitation strengthened by such exercise.
I also take the same approach with my female clients during their pregnancy (and after), using the same logical path above.
Finally, it is important to train at all ages, and especially after we reach the age of 40+, to maintain our physical and mental strength moving forward in life and to prevent the risk of injury and rehabilitating illness. Exercise safeguards us during our later years, just as it helps us to successfully navigate pregnancy.
It is our guarantee of a strong life.
So, engage with the physical environment and build strength and mobility when doing so. Not only will it help improve the appearance of the physical, it will also sharpen the mind.