This is a guest post by Nathan V, a high school football coach and strength and conditioning coordinator.
Running has always been a great source for aerobic exercise. The benefits of aerobic exercise are no secret among committed runners and hobbyist alike. Benefits include strengthening of the bodies lean muscle composition as well as the diaphragm. Running reduces the risk of heart problems, in addition to being a great tool in a weight loss program. All of these reasons are centred on changes we can see, changes we can notice by the physical look of our bodies. But does strengthening our muscles mean they become healthier? What is considered “healthy muscle”?
I am an avid jogger. I try to jog several times a week, weather permitting. I enjoy the relaxation, and I love the healthy feeling of reaching my target heart rate and maintaining my pace to really enhance my heart and lean muscle.
Recently, I noticed that I would fatigue faster. It wasn’t really that all-encompassing, exhausted feeling. But, the tightness in my legs would set in faster; the burning sensation in my chest and arms would occur in much less time than normal. I didn’t necessarily feel as if something was drastically wrong. More or less, I attributed this to father time catching up with me. Does getting older mean you have to settle for less effective running?
A quick trip to the doctor would open my eyes to some little-known information. For those of you who aren’t biologist, I will keep this simple. The key is the simple cell component called mitochondria. In the most basic sense, mitochondria create energy. These little power plants make the energy that your body requires to move. While that all seems pretty basic, it is crucial to understand that it is a law of supply and demand. The more you do, the more “mitos” your body will produce. The less you do, these “mitos” are diminished. So basically, becoming active or maintaining activity will increase your overall energy and possible output. We have all heard about “getting into shape” and many other catchy sayings to get us off our backsides. This is the concept of those sayings in a biological sense.
Wait a second… I had been running. I was in shape. I would jog, stayed relatively active at work, and genuinely cared about my health. Right? Well, not exactly. I was guilty. I was guilty of thinking that I was doing enough. I love feeling like I was hitting my target heart rate and maintaining it in order to build up heart health and strengthen lean muscle composition. Blah blah blah! I was getting older, and the work I was doing, in reality, was vastly different than what I had been doing while jamming out to my favourite rock song. Yup, I was guilty.
What’s the difference between a healthy muscle and a strong muscle? This concept seems one in the same, but in reality, are vastly different. A healthy muscle is typically strong, yes. But a strong muscle is not always healthy. A healthy muscle is both strong, and more importantly, loaded with mitochondria. Healthy muscles can keep the aging adult feeling in their prime! The health of our muscles can be improved by literally moving. The supply of mitochondria and the burning of fat within our muscles is directly correlated to how much or how little we move. Simply put, the more I move the less fat is present within that muscle and the more mitochondrial potential energy I will have. The less I move, the less mitochondrial potential energy and our old friends will rear their ugly heads!
This concept is the anti-aging wonder that is gaining traction with pharmaceutical companies. Health gurus have been preaching these concepts for years. This concept motivates 50 to be the new 25. Consistent activity, proper dieting, and planned aerobic output can improve the health of your muscles and make you feel great. Runners can be satisfied that with their hobby, they can enable mitochondria development and continue to have a healthy, lean muscle system that will provide valuable energy and output potential for as long as their activity continues.