You may not notice the long-term effects of exercise on your muscles. Many of the benefits involve the physiology of your muscular system. You may note an increase in your athletic performance as well your energy levels during day-to-day activities. These effects provide more reasons why regular exercise is important for good health.
Increased Muscle Mass
A visible effect of exercise is an increase in muscle mass. As humans age, muscle loss and diminished muscle protein production occur, explains Mayo Clinic. Exercise can slow this process by strengthening muscles. Moreover, the muscle mass is lean tissue because of the calorie burn associated with your activity. This can improve your physical appearance by giving your muscles definition and improving your posture.
In response to the activity, your muscles will strengthen. This in turn can increase bone density and reduce your risk of osteoporosis, reports the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
Increased Mitochondria Numbers
Energy production occurs at the cellular level in organelles called mitochrondria. These structures produce the energy currency of the body called adenosine-5'-triphosphate, or ATP. Energy production requires oxygen. During long-term exercise, the body's needs for energy will increase, especially if you engage in intense activity such as swimming or running.
To meet those energy needs, the mitochondria in muscles cells will self-replicate and increase in numbers in response to long-term activity. The result is more available energy for greater aerobic endurance.
Excess sugar is stored in your liver and muscles in a form called glycogen. The body can break down glycogen easily for another source of energy.
As you build muscle mass, the storage capacity for glycogen increases in your muscles. During exercise, the body calls upon these reserves during long-term activity after blood glucose levels have dropped. The increase in glycogen stores means that you can exercise longer with enough fuel to support your activity. The increased activity will create a domino effect, sustaining the long-term effects on the muscular system.
Heightened Myoglobin Production
In addition to sugar, oxygen provides the necessary ingredient for continued activity. The body will increase its stores of myoglobin. Myoglobin temporarily stores oxygen in muscle tissue, the highest concentrations found in aerobic muscles.
Aerobic muscles use oxygen to produce energy. By increasing these reserves, the body has the building blocks it needs to provide energy to the muscles. The long-term result illustrates how the effects on the muscular system support continued activity.
- "Principles of Anatomy and Physiology"; G. Tortora et al; 2005
- Mayo Clinic: Slowing Aging by Fighting Muscle Wasting Disease
- National Osteoporosis Foundation: Prevention
- "American Journal of Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology"; Aerobic Performance and the Function of Myoglobin in Human Skeletal Muscle; R. Meyer; December 2004
- "Motor control"; The Effects of Physical Activity in the Anticipatory Postural Adjustments in Elderly People; R. Carvalho et al; July 2010