Even if you’re not an endurance athlete or a body builder, your muscles require special maintenance and attention. Whether you work on your feet or at a desk, having a healthy muscular system will reduce pain and discomfort in your skeletal system (strong muscles protect bones from requiring constant chiropractic attention), and improve your circulation and digestion.
To maximize the benefits of your body’s muscles, try implementing a few of these tips into your lifestyle. You’ll find that over time, you’re breathing better, feeling more alert and vital, and experiencing less daily pain.
Practice good posture
This first tip sounds deceptively simple, which is one reason why it’s first on our list. The other reason is this: once you’ve mastered your posture, you’ll begin experiencing less chronic pain. Because pain is often a hindrance to physical activity (which is a prerequisite of muscle fitness), this list starts with the single change that will bring about the most immediate relief.
Posture is crucial because it has a direct effect on how efficiently your muscles are being used. That’s right, just like frowning (which we all know uses more muscles than smiling) improperly using your muscles (aka maintaining poor posture) requires more effort and strain than using them properly. That sounds counter-intuitive if you’ve ever spent a whole day sitting up straight, but when your body is aligned properly, the muscles and bones work together to move easily and freely.
Compare yourself to a sleek muscle car racing down the highway at top speed. The car is designed to perform well under these conditions, but if you open the driver’s side door, what happens? You’ve taken away the car’s aerodynamicism, which was crucial to its success.
The same is true with poor posture. While slumping might seem easier to those who’ve habituated themselves to it, breaking the bad habits and replacing them with good ones will produce such positive changes that you’ll never look back.
Maintain a healthy weight
Now that you’re starting to feel the relief of good posture, it’s time to address your fitness. We’ll talk about exercise in a minute, but for now take an honest look in the mirror. While there is a healthy range of pounds that each unique body frame can carry, lugging around excess weight is stressing out your muscles. They’re being forced to work harder, and not in a good way, but a way that results in aches, pains, and strain.
Remember that losing about a pound per week is healthy; more can be dangerous. Always discuss dramatic dietary changes with a doctor, and don’t go to extremes. This is about health, not about becoming America’s Hungriest Super Model. Fluctuating weight is just as bad for your muscles as excess, so find a healthy, sustainable way to drop those pounds. The next two tips will help you.
Get regular aerobic exercise
Aerobic exercise and your body’s muscles are a match made in heaven. Aerobic workouts (aka cardio) like running, power walking, playing sports (soccer or tennis), swimming, or jumping rope benefit the muscular system in a lot of ways. From increasing endurance, strength, and tone, to bolstering the heart and circulation, and eliminating body fat, aerobic exercise may make your muscles ache at first, but not in the same way that sitting at a desk all day does.
The American Heart Association suggests a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. That’s about 20 minutes of cardio each day. Over time, this kind of regular exercise will reduce chronic muscle pain to a mere memory.
Pump some iron
You don’t have to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger to feel the positive effects of regular resistance training. Increasing your muscle size, even by a little, obviously increases strength, and strong muscles can support better posture, improve endurance, and even burn fat more efficiently which brings us full circle.
A final tip
Clearly, muscle health and overall wellness are closely related, but there will still be times when simply standing up straight doesn’t make you feel much better. Don’t overlook the benefits of natural muscle relaxers, massages, and an occasional dip in a sauna or hot tub when you’re seeking muscle relief. Remember, being sore from exercise is natural and healthy. Being sore from standing on your feet all day at work isn’t.