Muscle health can often tell you how you are going to age and stay active and independent as you may move easily and maintain your body robust with healthy muscles but starting at age 40, adults can lose up to 8 percent of their muscle mass per decade. Muscle loss happens not only due to ageing but also due to injury, illness, poor nutrition etc and has implications on daily life activities since decreases in muscle function is largely due to changes in muscle mass.
The progressive mismatch between muscle mass and strength mostly occurs due to a deterioration of muscle quality. Hence, muscle strength becomes more important than muscle mass as a determinant of functional limitations and mobility. Good nutrition and regular exercise can be your holy grail when it comes to keeping muscle loss at bay.
We all know that the benefits of physical exercises are plenty and walking may be one of the easiest forms of exercise. Doctors and fitness experts promote walking because it’s an easy activity for all age groups and you don’t need any specific training, equipment, or clothing to get started hence, it is a secure form of exercise to start with and to build stronger muscles.
Pairing regular walks with an adequate nutrition intake can help you live a healthier life preventing unwanted health conditions that may arise due to muscle loss. Consequently, to ensure there are enough nutrients to meet our bodies’ day-to-day needs, it’s important to consume a balanced, varied diet with select nutrient-rich foods.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Irfan Shaikh, Head, Medical and Scientific Affairs at Abbott’s Nutrition, shared how you can walk your way to stronger muscles with a simple walking challenge:
For some people, hitting 10,000 steps a day may be easy. For others, going from a sedentary lifestyle to walking eight kilometers can be tough. It’s helpful to find your baseline of what you normally walk in a day. When you know where you’re starting, set incremental smaller goals to reach 10,000 steps. It’s better to work your way up than to grow frustrated with a large goal and give up. Start by trying to get 4,000 steps a day for a week and add 1,000 steps a day each week until you’re doing 10,000. You can get those extra steps by parking your car farther away from the office, by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or by taking an extra walk in the evening. Adding a brisk 10-minute walk three times a day is a great way to become more active and strengthen your muscles. . Apart from walking resistance exercises such as lifting weights or using elastic resistance bands can help protect loss of muscle mass and build muscle strength. Adequate nutrition and maintaining a balanced diet are also key to support your muscle health. After all, it’s food that fuels every cell in your body and supports your muscles for strength which in turn can make achieving this 10,000-step goal easier.
You can use a step tracker app, on your smartphone to track your progress. These apps send notifications and reminders on your daily targets. The challenge of trying to get that perfect score can help you stay motivated. Apart from this you should also commit to taking a break every hour, for five minutes or more, to do something active, such as walking around the house, running in place, or doing jumping jacks. Adding a 30- or 60-minute workout at some point during the day, whether it is a class at the gym, a jog around the neighborhood or 30 minutes on the treadmill can also help you hit that goal. Be sure to also include some sort of resistance training as these can help increase muscle strength, endurance and power.
According to Dr Irfan Shaikh, you can see noticeable benefits from making the effort and hitting the 10,000-step goal every day. Here are some of them –
1. Better sleep: Walking after a tough day at work can help you relax and loosen any stiffness from sitting in front of the screen all day. You will fall asleep easier and find yourself sleeping through the night.
2. Improved eating habits: The more you exercise, the more your diet may tend to improve. This will drive you to ensure you are eating a wholesome diet full of all the nutrients you need to keep going and help you complete your goal.
3. Heightened awareness: Aiming for 10,000 steps may be an eye-opener. You may not realize how much time you spent sitting unless you start taking conscious efforts to be active throughout the day. You should take more breaks and add exercises, especially when working from home. Staying active will also increase your productivity.
4. More energy: Once you get started with this challenge, rather than giving in to moments of tiredness, you will get motivated to do better, which will help increase your energy. Taking walk breaks during the day will also enhance your focus while working and can also be beneficial to your heart.
5. Shared motivation: These activities will not just benefit you but can also benefit your family and people around you. You could ask your colleague to accompany you on a brief walk around the office. It’s also so easy to sleep in or be lazy but knowing that you have a step goal to achieve, can give you the push you need to stay active.
Participating in a step challenge is an easy way for anyone, of any fitness level to condition themselves to be more active. When it comes to keeping your muscles strong and healthy, nutrition and exercise are the two foundation pillars. Walking is a good way to get started. Start simple and you’ll reap the health benefits!