10. Maintain Healthy Muscles and Bones
As we mentioned above, exercise helps to build lean muscle mass and stronger, leaner muscles. The benefits of this isn’t just in how we might look. Having strong muscles through exercising them helps us with stability, decreases our risk of falls and improves our posture.
Strong muscles and exercise go hand in hand with the protein we get from our diet. Proteins are made of smaller building blocks called amino acids. When we perform strength exercise, we create tiny tears in our muscle fibres. We need amino acids to help repair these tears and it’s this repair that builds more muscle fibres and in turn, bigger, stronger muscles. When we exercise, we release hormones such as testosterone (whether we’re male or female) which helps prepare the muscles for amino acid uptake.
Strength training such as weight lifting and resistance exercise using your own body weight (squats and lunges for example) helps to strengthen the muscles. But it also helps to strengthen the bones and connective tissues that connect bones to bones (ligaments) and bones to muscles (tendons). When we’re younger, exercise helps us build good bone density which is like an insurance policy for our bones later in life.
This is important as we grow older, as we naturally lose bone density and strength. It’s also especially important for women who have been through their menopause. Post-menopausal women naturally have lower oestrogen levels, and this can put a woman at risk of weaker bones, leading to fractures and potentially osteoporosis.
We reach our maximum bone density in our 20s and 30s, after that, we start to lose it, so it’s important that we do all we can to strengthen our bones when we’re young. Research has found that high impact sports such as running, football, rugby, racquet sports, martial arts and basketball are better at building bone mass than low impact sports such as swimming and cycling.