The Importance of Muscles for Overall Health

I often talk about how important muscle tissue is to overall health and how important muscle is to longevity and to performance as we age. Well, it turns out that there’s a really good fundamental biological reason behind that. Muscle tissue, which makes up in the average person, over 50% of the wet body mass is also the largest venous capacitance organ in the body, which means that the circulating blood that contains much of your immune system and also contains many of the stem cells that are responsible for regenerating and renovating your organ and tissues through your lifespan – they spend a lot of time in that part of the circulation.

In the circulatory system, you’ve got the high-pressure arterial system, which delivers blood and the low-pressure venous system, which returns blood to the heart. In the low-pressure venous system in the skeletal muscle, you have a very, very large number of cells from your immune system and a very large number of the stem cells that are coming from your bone marrow and from other tissues. They spend time sequestered in that low pressure part of the circulation on the venous side of your muscle tissue. It allows those cells to be on alert, on demand to be mobilized and moved throughout your body in response to any injury or illness that you might have.

Now, let me put this into a practical description.  When you are combating an illness or when you’re responding to an injury, you want your immune system and you want your regenerative system (when I talk about stem cells, I’m going to refer to it as your regenerative system) to be available and easily mobilized to respond to the problems that may arise in your body.  Nature has designed it that way. But, if you take steps to maximize the quality, quantity, and integrity of your muscle tissue, you consequently improve the quality, integrity and performance of your immune system as well as your regenerative system.

Think of those as important strategies to always have in the back of your mind. And it also means that when you are faced with a health challenge  – something as simple as waking up in the morning and just not having enough energy to want to go to work or it can be that you’ve been recently diagnosed with an illness, even something serious like a cancer –  you should be thinking about what can I do today to create an early response to the problem? So, I tell people, “Hey, if you’re not feeling all that great, go out and exercise.” Exercising those muscles helps mobilize and traffic that part of your immune system, that part of your regenerative system to get to the places where they can actually do the greatest benefit.

Even things like massage and physical therapy; all of these things help just like exercise does to mobilize and recruit those important components of your immune system and regenerative system to get to the site where they’re needed to keep you healthy.

So, how does this relate to the treatment of degenerative diseases and aging? One of the things we know is that our mobility declines as we age. The health, integrity, strength and endurance of our muscle tissue declines as part of a process. The process is called sarcopenia. Sarcopenia muscle loss is an insidious process that takes place from your 20s all the way through to your advanced years, and that slow erosion of the quality and integrity of your muscle tissue diminishes your performance. Now the consequence of diminished mobility performance is that you don’t exercise enough. Not exercising enough means it has an impact on your metabolism and it has an impact on your weight and on your immune system.

When I think about how to approach your age-related problems, I say, “Well, what caused the sarcopenia to begin with? The muscle loss?” A big part of that is slow chronic inflammation, and inflammation, as we know, is a process that is important. Inflammation is how we respond to injuries and illness, but when left unchecked, chronic, long-term inflammation is highly erosive to the quality of your organs, tissues and ultimately your health.

And so, measures that we take today should always take into account that the root cause of loss of mobility has its origins in injury followed by inflammation, followed by chronicity and chronic inflammation, which slowly erodes one of the most important organ and tissue systems in your body and that will have a negative effect on your health over time. If you take steps early on to reduce inflammation and then incorporate strategies to return and build your muscle back to where it was, you’ll maximize your health. You’ll maximize your mobility performance, and that will provide great benefits to all the other associated systems.

As you lose the quality, quantity and integrity of your muscle tissue, there is a negative effect on your joint systems. The joints need to be properly supported by a high quality muscular system, and if you don’t do that, you eventually begin to damage your joints. Things like osteoarthritis, which is a cumulative degrading of your joints, plagues many of us as we age.  If you take steps to understand the root cause of that and go back and take steps to prevent muscle loss and improve the quality of our joints and address inflammation – using techniques like using hypothermia, ice, and the right kind of anti-inflammatory strategies – you’ll help preserve the quality of your joints, quality of your muscle tissue and will maintain your high performance mobility as you age.