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Is muscle the organ of longevity?

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A lifelong routine of exercise has many benefits as you age. It’s good for your heart, bones and metabolism. Strength and endurance exercises also can help you maintain your independence.
 
The best workout routines include a variety of exercises to work all the muscles in your body. Cardiovascular exercise increases your heart rate and gets you breathing a little harder. Resistance training strengthens and tones muscles to help with flexibility and balance.
 
Here’s why working out your endurance and strength muscles makes a difference, especially as you get older.
 
Maintain endurance. Your type 1 endurance muscle fibers are important for slow, steady movements. They help you stand or walk for long periods of time, carry groceries, and hold your posture upright.
 
Try exercises like walking, jogging, biking, rowing to improve muscular endurance.
 
Build strength. Type 2 strength muscle fibers kick into action for short bursts of power. You need strength and power to stand up from a chair or toilet, walk up a flight of stairs, jump up or bend down, or lift a package off the front porch.
 
Lift weights or use resistance against your muscles with dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells or resistance bands to work on muscular strength.

Muscles matter for an independent lifestyle

You lose 3 to 5 percent of your muscle mass each decade over age 30 if you are physically inactive. Pathways between your brain and muscles that help you function every day also weaken when you lose muscle mass.
 
Less muscle tissue can affect your health in several ways.

  • Changes metabolism
  • Reduces insulin sensitivity
  • Increases risk of metabolic diseases, like diabetes, fatty liver and obesity

Moderate exercise most days of the week can go a long way toward keeping your muscles in good shape. To build endurance, try walking or biking 15 to 20 minutes a day. Aim for 150 minutes a week of endurance exercise.

Strength training – or resistance exercise – two to three times a week gives muscles time to recover between sessions. Get started with bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups, planks and crunches, that use your own weight for resistance. Add resistance bands or light weights as you get stronger.
 
Continue to challenge yourself with heavier loads to give your muscles the input they need to grow. For guidance, look for free online resources on websites such as Silver Sneakers and AARP.
 
Emily Moore, ND, L.Ac, is a naturopathic doctor at Goshen Center for Cancer Care. She specializes in naturopathic therapies to treat the whole person, not just the disease. Her therapies minimize side effects, optimize treatment outcomes and assist the body's natural healing process.

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