As an absolute essential to the control of the functions of your body, there are some pretty important things you should know about your muscles. There’s very little that happens in your body without the aid of a muscle, so knowing a little bit about them certainly helps us understand our bodies more. Here are some of the basic things you should know about your muscles.
About 40% of your body weight is made of muscle. Muscles are responsible for the power and motion in your body, and control and maintain posture, locomotion and movement of limbs and internal and external organs. They are often referred to as the body’s scaffold. One of the things you should know about your muscles is that they work by contracting and stretching, thereby opening and closing valves or causing a change in position.
Every muscle, large or tiny, is made from the same material. A muscle is a package of stretchy fibers – thousands and thousands of them depending on the size of the muscle, which is generally dictated by its function. Each of these muscle fibers is about 40mm in length consisting of tiny fibrils. The fibrils contain nerves which control the movement.
One of the interesting things you should know about muscles is that there are 3 types: skeletal, cardiac and smooth. Skeletal muscles are, as they are named, attached to the skeleton and they move the limbs and external body parts. Every visible bodily movement is caused by the contraction and relaxation of skeletal muscles. These muscles also keep your head up, maintain posture and stop joints dislocating. They also generate heat and help in maintaining body temperature. 36% of an average female’s body mass is skeletal mass.
Cardiac muscles exist in the heart, and only in the heart. Being responsible for heartbeat, they work 24/7, 365 days a year. The heart muscles alternately contract and relax to pump blood through the body.
Smooth muscles are responsible for all internal organs other than the heart. There is no awareness that a smooth muscle is working and for it to work, like the heart but unlike skeletal muscles, no conscious thought is required. Example of smooth muscle movements are the passage of food through the intestines and bowel, and our pupils shrinking and expanding. Did you know that when your hair stands on end (goosebumps), that is the result of a minuscule muscle movement?
One of the undeniable facts about muscles you have no control of is that you are born with all your muscles. They can strengthen, waste, increase and decrease in mass, but once damaged, muscles cannot be replaced. Muscles can be increased and made stronger through exercise- and this is relevant whatever age you are. New muscle takes twice as long to lose than it took to gain it, which means it is easier to build new muscles and get into shape than to allow your muscles waste away through lack of use – great motivation to exercise.
It is impossible to be completely accurate about the number of muscles in the human body because some single muscles may be numerous smaller ones bunched together. The estimates put the number of muscles between 640 to 850. Another of the muscle facts which seems perfectly obvious when you think about it, but that you may not be conscious of, is that the skeletal muscles are symmetrical – for every skeletal muscle on the left side of the body, there’s one on the right.
All of your eye movements are controlled by muscles. Blinking, for example, is controlled by the muscles that work fastest out of them all. They work really hard because you can blink around 15,000 times in a day, and as a woman, you blink on average twice as much as men. Light entering the eye is controlled by the muscles contracting and relaxing in the pupil.
The act of increasing your muscle mass through exercise is known as muscle hypertrophy, and one of the things you should know about muscles and exercise is the difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise. If you want to get stronger you should focus on anaerobic exercise and if you want to get fitter, you should focus on aerobic exercise. In anaerobic exercises, the muscles are used up to maximum capacity, improving their power, speed and strength. In aerobic exercise the muscles are not pushed and are working well under their capacity.
One of the most important things to know about muscles is that they are better than fat. A pound of fat is about the size of a grapefruit, whereas a pound of muscle is only about the size of a tangerine. This is because muscle is denser than fat.
You need to keep your muscles in good shape, not only because you want your body to work properly and your limbs to respond when you need them to, but also because muscle health is linked to two major risks. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research published the results of a study which found that people who regularly lift weights have a 37% less risk of metabolic syndrome. This incorporates a number of risk factors linked to the number one killer of women over the age of 25 in the US – heart disease. The same study also showed a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes – the fastest growing disease in the country, currently affecting 26 million people. This is because healthy muscles are essential in the efficient processing of blood glucose.
Your tongue is a muscle and it is the only one that is attached at only one end, and it takes about 72 muscles to speak. The biggest muscle in the human body is the gluteus maximus (bottom) and the smallest is the stapedius. It is thinner than a cotton thread and it is located in the ear. The masseter muscle is the strongest muscle in the human body and this is used for chewing. It takes about 43 muscles to produce a frown, but only 17 to smile. This is why smiling is a much better work out for your face than frowning. Smiling is less tiring and it makes you feel better too! In order to take just one step, you are using 200 muscles. So, when you know that an average person takes about 10,000 steps a day, you can see how good walking is for you.
There you have it – some interesting and important things you should know about muscles. I certainly feel better informed now, hope you do too?
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