We all know that increasing muscle mass boosts our metabolism and improves body composition. New research published in Endocrine Reviews has found that skeletal muscles play a pivotal role in optimizing numerous areas of your health. Skeletal muscles maintain your posture, facilitate voluntary movement, protect your joints and are essential for breathing and body temperature regulation. What’s more, emerging evidence shows that skeletal muscles can secrete hormone-like proteins, like an endocrine organ, which can communicate with cells, tissues and organs throughout the body. This muscle-based, molecular messaging system can help keep your body and brain in top condition and can improve liver and blood vessel health and even have an anti-aging effect on the skin. Here’s a look at how muscles can positively impact your health.
Move to Release Myokines
For the first time ever, researchers are beginning to understand the biochemical mechanisms that make exercise so beneficial. While there is still much to learn in this area, it’s clear that movement triggers skeletal muscles to release myokines. They are a group of hormone-like proteins that may have autocrine (talks to different parts of the same cell), paracrine (signals adjacent cells), and endocrine effects. The latter makes it possible to “talk” long-distance to tissues and organs throughout the body, including the brain, adipose tissue, bone, liver, gut, pancreas, vascular bed and skin. The result is relaying messages to take a specific health-protective action. For example, after a workout, your skeletal muscles secrete a myokine called IL-10, which sends a message to the immune cells in your liver to lower inflammation.
Muscle Boosts Brain Function
Regular exercise and building muscle mass reduce anxiety and depression, bring more blood flow to the brain, and can even improve and preserve cognitive function.
In fact, researchers at McGill University found that low muscle mass is associated with faster cognitive decline.
Movement encourages skeletal muscles to release two myokines, irisin and CTSB, that communicate with, and increase, levels of the molecule brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the brain. BDNF promotes cell survival and regulates plastic changes related to learning and memory.
The Muscle-Immunity Connection
Contracting muscles boost your immune system. They secrete several myokines, including IL-6 and IL-1RA, that help to regulate the function of immune cells such as macrophages and monocytes. IL-6 and IL-15 also regulate the maturation and distribution of natural killer (NK) cells that take action on tumors.
That’s not all: Active muscle produces an amino acid called glutamine, which is consumed by immune cells such as lymphocytes and macrophages to enhance their energy and performance.
Muscle Benefits Bone Health
From a mechanical standpoint, moving your muscles regularly helps to maintain bone density, reduce your risk of fractures and improve bone healing. Additionally, exercise releases myokines Irisin, IL7 or IL15 from your muscles. These are associated with overall bone health, including formation, mineralization and recovery from fractures.
Your Exercise Prescription
It’s clearer than ever that fitness should be a priority in your lifespan and healthspan plan. How should you pump up? Research suggests that overall myokine levels are lower in moderate physical activity and abundant after workouts that are longer or high-intensity. Speak with your Fountain Life Health Coordinator for assistance in creating a fitness regimen that will bring out the best in your body, so you can live a long and healthy life.