Nature has laid down a deterioration plan for all of us. The functional pattern of our physiological systems are formed in our mother’s womb and programmed into our genes to improve for about 20-25 years from birth, and thereafter to slowdown and eventually end. There is nothing we can do to stop the slowdown process. However, what we can do is make ourselves physically strong to be able to handle this process optimally. I say “physically strong” and not mentally strong, because only a physically strong individual can attempt to physically move. I am not talking about intelligence. I’m talking about the strong desire of an individual to physically move but who can’t due to physical weakness. Those who are physically weak will be physically inefficient no matter how strong their mind is.
On the one hand the functions of our physiological systems are programmed to slow down, on the other hand our body is programmed to function optimally with adequate food, adequate movement and adequate rest. Our physical self won’t move an inch in the absence of physical strength. This is especially evident as you grow older. I’m not saying that mental strength is unimportant, the point I’m trying to make is that mental strength will not make a weak body move better, unless of course you plan to rock your mental strength on your favorite chair in the corner of your bedroom with the television and dim lights 24×7 (you get the point right?). I’m also not saying that physical strength will improve your physiological functions like that of a teenager but it will definitely build your threshold and improve the quality of your time spent on this planet.
Now that we know the human body is programmed to function optimally with physical strength, let’s understand the importance of maintaining muscle tissue for the purpose of strength. Physical movement and strength comes from contraction of muscle tissue. Those with low muscle mass will produce less force resulting in inefficient movement patterns. Those with high muscle mass will generate greater force resulting in efficient movement patterns. You’ve heard the adage “use it or lose it”; muscle is exactly that. If you don’t contract the muscle under load and eat adequate amount of protein, you will lose the muscle mass.
Physical strength comes from physical training; this process of physical training (read this article: The Sole Purpose of Physical Training) will stress you at the cellular/chemical level. At the microscopic level, our entire system is made up of cells; brain cells, liver cells, muscle cells, kidney cells, etc. What happens at the cellular level determines the way our body functions at the macroscopic level, and it is how we live (eat, exercise, rest) that determines what happens to us at the cellular level. For e.g., progressively lifting heavier weights increases protein synthesis of skeletal muscle at the microscopic level; increased number of proteins in the muscle cells/fibers thereby increases/maintains the entire muscle mass. Another example of what happens to the surface of the body that negatively affects the body at the cellular level is the exposure to excessive harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun that damages the skin cells and this is known to be the leading cause of skin cancer, especially if you have fairer skin. These are just a couple of examples of what happens inside the body as a result of what we do to the body outside.
As we age our organs don’t function very well, and that’s completely normal. The skin starts to wrinkle, the hair starts to thin, the stomach releases less acid, the immune system is not as strong anymore, the joints start to ache, etc. We are not able to reverse this process. However, the one organ system that we do have a lot of control over is the musculoskeletal system. Stimulation of skeletal muscle via correct physical training not only positively affects the muscle, bones and the joints but also the other organ systems, and this helps in keeping the functions of all the organs very active, even the brain.