If you are someone on a fitness journey, you might have heard frequent mentions of muscle strengthening from your gym trainer or fitness influencers. Muscle strengthening exercises make your muscles work harder while boosting muscle health and bone density.
Regular muscle training has been linked with health benefits like better posture, reduced joint aches, lower risk of sustaining injuries, and slowing the pace of bone and muscle loss.
When you add muscle training to your fitness regime, over time you are likely to enjoy perks like better blood sugar levels, weight management, emotional state, and more confidence. According to a 2022 meta-analysis, people opting for muscle strengthening just 30-60 minutes a week are at a lower risk of dying prematurely than those who don’t.
The experts who conducted the study explained that muscle-strengthening exercises are recommended as they can lead to better physical functioning. The benefit can, in turn, lower the risk of lifestyle diseases like cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and diabetes.
How to work on muscle strengthening
Despite its advantages, the lack of awareness about muscle strengthening is impacting people’s health levels across the country. There are also myths like muscle training being strenuous that discourage people from trying their hand at it. In a study by InBody, seven out of 10 Indians were found to be suffering from poor muscle health and needed to gain muscle mass. Conducted across eight cities, the survey observed the fitness levels of citizens between the ages of 30 to 55 years.
Unlike what many people think, muscle strengthening doesn’t always involve hitting the gym or working out for hours. It can be as easy as climbing stairs, doing a couple of jumping jacks or push-ups, or heavy gardening. Let’s get to know how we can incorporate muscle strengthening into our daily lives.
1. Dancing: Put on your favorite playlist and start dancing. There’s no right or wrong way to dance. Along with burning calories, dancing aids the development of lean muscle mass.
2. Taking the stairs: By ditching the elevator and climbing the stairs, you engage your leg muscles to carry your weight, step after step. The activity when repeated every days can lead to robust leg muscles.
3. Heavy gardening: As messy as weeding, digging, planting, and mowing your lawn sounds, your muscles are going to thank you. During heavy gardening, you strengthen your muscles by engaging the ones in your limbs, abdomen, shoulder, and back. Gardening also helps in improving mobility and muscle endurance
4. Cycling: The next time you are going to a nearby spot, choose cycling over driving. The activity targets your calves, hamstrings, quads, and glutes, making your legs stronger.
5. Push-ups or squats: These exercises are among the most effective forms of physical training which is why you will see them included in almost every kind of workout. By engaging all muscles of the body, they can make your core stronger and improve your upper body strength.
Why nutrition is important for muscle strength
If you are committed to muscle training but are not focussing on nutrition, you are missing out on a key parameter for good health. If exercise keeps you in good shape, nutrition is the fuel that keeps you going. There’s more to muscle building than lifting weights and working out and nutrition is an important component in your fitness journey.
According to nutritionists and dietary experts, nothing can replace a balanced and nutrient-dense diet. They also warn people against consuming supplements without medical advice as they can do more harm than good.
For gaining muscles, the two crucial nutrients to take care of are calories and protein. Being the building block of your body, protein rebuilds muscle tissue. By having adequate calories each day, you get the energy to get going. Here are a few examples of foods that can help you achieve your muscle strengthening targets easily:
- Egg: Apart from healthy fats and vitamins, each egg has six grams of protein. Serve them sunny side up, scramble them or rustle up a classic omelet, you are never running out of options with egg.
- Chicken: The reason why your dietician’s top recommendations include chicken breast is because it is an excellent source of lean protein.
- Cottage cheese: If you are a vegetarian, cottage cheese can be your go-to source of protein. You can create a number of mouth-watering dishes with it that satisfy both your taste buds as well as nutritional needs.
- Tofu: This is a protein source that’s ideal for both vegetarians and vegans. Made from soybean, tofu is also rich in calcium.
- Beans: Kidney beans, flat beans, black beans, or pinto beans are good sources of lean protein. Plus, they add more fiber, vitamins, and minerals to your diet.
- Tempeh: It’s another popular vegan protein source. It’s sometimes preferred to options like tofu as it’s less processed, so it can retain more macronutrients.
- Greek yogurt: If you are looking for a protein-rich snacking option, this one’s recommended by fitness experts too. You can top it up with fruit and nuts, add it to a smoothie, or even have it plain.
A quick search on the internet will show you how muscle strengthening is linked to long-term health benefits and lower mortality risk. On the other hand, the lack of muscle strength and endurance can lead to fatigue, poor metabolism, and impaired muscles. You can start small and at the pace you want and gradually build up your strength levels.
If at any point you feel confused about the technique or frequency of an exercise, consult your trainer to up your muscle training game. As your form becomes better, you get more confident and can challenge yourself to new fitness regimes.