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Use the Muscles Or Lose Them!

Use the Muscles Or Lose Them!

We’re all familiar with the phrase “use it or lose it”, but most of us think it only applies to mental agility and strength. However, this pearl of wisdom applies particularly strongly to muscle mass and muscle strength – what’s more, you can lose it alarmingly rapidly if you spend too long on the couch.

If you have had an arm or a leg in a cast, you will remember how skinny your limb looked when the cast was finally (yay!) removed. It wasn’t an optical illusion, because if your limb was immobilised for more than two or three weeks, you’ll have lost as much as a quarter of the muscle mass from it. That’s right – a quarter!

Muscles cost a lot

You might be wondering why your body was so keen to jettison all that mass. Well, it’s because muscle is very energy-expensive to build and then to maintain, so at the first sign of redundancy (well, maybe not the first…) your body will decide to stop ploughing so many resources into something that’s not earning it keep.

Your muscles aren’t just mindless chunks of meat, they are constantly communicating with your tendons, your joints and ultimately, your brain. If they stop sending so many signals saying “We’re here, we’re working really hard to catch mammoths and fight off wolverines*,” then they’ll start being chemically decommissioned.

This is why it’s vital to keep working and stretching those muscles, especially the long ones in your thighs and calves. Stretching sends very strong signals to the brain to say there is a lot going on and it also helps to keep the billions of fibres all lined up in the right way. This is why yoga and massage should be a big part of a healthy workout routine, as they incorporate stretching, helping you to stay lithe and fit.

*OK, there are no mammoths anymore, and precious few wolverines these days, but, although your muscles are very communicative, they’re still stuck in the Stone Age, where daily survival was a big deal.

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