The Muscle-Immunity Connection: How Muscle Health Can Enhance Your Body’s Defenses

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In today’s fast-paced world, we tend to be constantly rushing and getting caught up in busy routines and often neglect our health in the process. However, with rising infections including the flu, and having experienced a global pandemic, being in control of our health and building a strong immune system is more important than ever.

While there is no magic bullet for enhancing immunity, Dr. Irfan Shaikh, Head, of Medical & Scientific Affairs at Abbott’s Nutrition business talks about why muscles matter and how gaining strong muscles can significantly boost your immune system.

Muscles and their role in immunity building

Muscles are vital for good health. Your muscles’ do more than simply allow you to move and maintain balance. In fact, they also help you maintain strength and support your ability to partake in activities like playing sports, dancing, walking your dog, and more. Your muscles also play a key role in activating your immune cells. With the muscle tissue providing the energy and amino acids required by the immune system to function, it also protects us against infection. Muscles also form a critical source of strength and energy as you recover. When you are sick or hospitalized and your body isn’t getting enough of the nutrients it needs to recover, the body naturally breaks down muscle tissue to meet that requirement.

Poor muscle health can gradually affect a person’s ability to continue doing even the smallest of daily activities, such as walking or eating.[i] Considering the research available today, aging can result in muscle loss – for instance, from age 40 onwards, adults lose up to 8 percent of their muscle mass per decade, and after 70 years of age, that rate may double.[ii] To stay healthy, it thus becomes extremely important to maintain and build muscle health.

Building stronger muscles

Losing muscle mass is natural, but its rate of progression and negative effects don’t have to be especially since your immune health greatly depends on your muscle health. A chair challenge test is an easy way to gauge your muscle strength. The time you take to do 5 sit-ups on a chair of approx. height 43 cms (1.4 feet) can tell you your muscle age. One can also visit to get a better understanding of their muscle age. Here are 3 easy ways in which you can build muscle strength:

  1.  Make time for physical activity: Regular physical activity can go a long way to make muscles stronger. You can begin by including simple activities like walking, swimming, cycling, jogging, or even climbing stairs in your daily routine. You can also try lifting weights and gradually add more weight and reps over time, or exercises with a stretch band. Just an hour of physical activity on a regular basis can contribute tremendously to your muscle strength and overall health and wellbeing. This can also enhance your body’s ability to resist infections and effectively combat harmful bacteria.[iii]
  2.  Meet your daily protein needs: Protein is essential to build muscle and it’s important to consume an adequate amount of it every day. Consuming around 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal is optimal for your body to support muscle building and tissue repair.[iv] You can obtain protein from a number of sources such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, tofu, and beans
  3.  Fulfill your nutritional requirements: Good nutrition and muscle health go hand in hand. After all, food fuels every cell in your body and supports muscle strength. For this, consuming foods that are rich in not only protein but also Calcium and Vitamin D is important. Some dietary options you can consider to gain muscle – beyond protein – include leafy vegetables, dairy products, fish, mushrooms, and soybeans.

Additionally, to build muscle bass, your body needs beta-hydroxy-beta-methyl butyrate (HMB), which is naturally produced when the body breaks down certain amino acids. While you can consume foods like avocado, grapefruit, and cauliflower which contain this in small quantities, you may also need to use supplements, such as Ensure HMB, which provides 32 essential nutrients, which can help you improve muscle strength.

Healthy muscles are critical for maintaining strength and the ability to perform daily activities that make life meaningful and fulfilling. It’s not always easy to adequately support muscle and immune health but by working towards building a healthy lifestyle program with a balance of the right nutrition and exercises, good muscle health can be achieved.

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