Why do our muscles age? Several factors contribute to muscle meltdown. It is partly a result of the energy drain that turns formerly active people into couch potatoes practically overnight. Men and women who used to find it possible and even refreshing to run to the gym at the end of a hectic day suddenly find that they want to do is go home, eat dinner, and “veg out” by the tube. Clearly, these folks are not taking their “Energizers.”
Exercise not only strengthens muscles but simulates the repair mechanism within the muscles so that new muscle is formed. If we don’t exercise, even for a few weeks, our muscles will weaken significantly. In fact, if you stop exercising for just six weeks, you will lose about 50 percent of your muscle strength. The good news here is that if you start exercising, you can quickly recover what you have lost.
Muscle cells are particularly vulnerable to free radical attack. Free radicals injure cells and also make it difficult for muscle cells to repair themselves. As we lose our antioxidant balance, we lose the battle against free radicals, and muscle simply disappears. A high dose of particular antioxidants will restore your body’s natural antioxidant defense system. This will prevent further muscle damage and stimulate the muscle cells to repair and heal themselves. But that is just the first step.
The way to prevent and to cure muscle loss is through exercise. If we exercise consistently, we can maintain much of our youthful musculature. You may feel surprised that regardless of age, the people showed no significant difference in levels of body fat. In other words, the oldest people had the same sleek, lean bodies as the youngest people! This tells us that a decrease in muscle is not an evitable part of aging. It tells us that if we stay physically active throughout our lives, we can maximize muscle tone and minimize fat. This does not mean that you have to be an endurance athlete to maintain your muscles and enjoy the full benefits of exercise. The key is to maintain a consistent level of moderate exercise.