Muscle memory2 min read . Updated: 20 Dec 2010, 08:47 PM IST
I know way too many people who are so paranoid about what will happen to them once they quit gymming that they don’t even begin. I am talking about the smart, intelligent kind who are well aware of the many benefits of exercising regularly— better looks, better immune function, better heart health, not to mention a better social life.
The paranoia is fed by the myth, “if you stop exercising you will balloon out of proportion". Really? You will stop getting your salary cheque when you quit work, right? So how about not working at all right now? Should you get the pink slip or take a sabbatical, you will stop making money, then you won’t be able to buy all that you are buying right now and will have to lower your standard of living. So, is it not better to stop working from now to prepare for that eventuality?
When it comes to making choices and decisions about money, our dimaag (mind) seems to function just fine. “No, I must work," you reason—make money and use it well so that in case you have to take a break from work you will have enough saved to fall back on.
Fitness is not a non-perishable entity, so your body has no ability to “store" fitness. As long as you work out and use the 640-odd muscles of your body, your body sees a reason to keep them in good shape and be in a “ready-to-use" mode. When you give up using your muscles or stop exercising, your body will keep the muscles in a ready-to-use mode for around three weeks. Beyond three weeks is very expensive, metabolically, for your body to maintain “conditioning" or a high level of core fitness parameters (strength, flexibility, cardiorespiratory and endurance). Muscle is a metabolically active tissue, which forces the body to burn fat in order to maintain itself. So if the muscles are not being used, the body will reduce burning its fat tissue and detrain or lose muscle tissue. Get it? Low BMR (basal metabolic rate, or the amount of fat tissues burnt daily while at rest) = more body fat.
So even if for some reason you haven’t been able to work out for the last three months or for the last decade, when you do get back to exercise your body will ignite its muscle memory and bring your fitness parameters to where you last left them.
But then, to have some memory you must have some fitness levels. To save for a rainy day, you must have some money to begin with. So you must start working out now if you want your muscles to build up a memory bank.
PS: Of course, just like you curtail unnecessary expenses while on a sabbatical or when you are between jobs, curtail your food intake while you are on a break from that workout.
This is the second in a four-part series by nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar. Her new book Women and the Weight Loss Tamasha (Westland, ₹ 200) will be out in January.
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