It’s a scientifically proven fact: building muscle and strengthening your feet are essential to living a longer, healthier life. And yet, the correlation between foot health and muscle mass are often overlooked or forgotten when it comes to how we exercise and stay active in the world.
In regards to longevity and overall health, muscle mass (muscle strength, really) plays a key role in improving both—but how? Today’s article is going to take a look at muscle mass as it relates synergistically to foot health and overall health, as well as the important connection between strong feet, an active lifestyle, and longevity.
As always, be sure to consult with a trusted physician before folding any of our muscle building or foot strengthening exercises into your daily routine. And for additional resources on all things foot health related, be sure to check out the rest of our Foot Health Journal articles.
The connection between muscle mass, muscle strength, and all-cause mortality is a big one. So big that increased muscle mass and muscle strength are directly correlated with a decrease in all-cause mortality. Roughly translated, this means that building muscle (no, you don’t have to achieve hulk status—this is about specifics and consistency) can lead to greatly improved health and a longer life.
As orthopedic surgeon Howard J. Luks puts it “the more muscle mass you have, the lesser the risk of dying from a chronic disease than some of your peers… just one hour of resistance exercise each week leads to a decrease in all-cause mortality risk.”
Starting at age 50, age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia) causes around a 1% decrease in muscle mass each year (😳). This loss of muscle mass and muscle strength then leads to increased frailty, risk of injury and illness, and a general decline in health. And getting that muscle mass and strength back as we get older? Well, it’s much harder.
We can head sarcopenia off at the pass, though (no, we can’t bypass it, but we can get out in front), or at least do our best to counter it. The thing is, the work to do so starts yesterday. And if not yesterday, today. Not tomorrow, but now. Have we made our point?
In order for a muscle-building exercise program to be complete, it needs to include the four different forms of exercise: aerobic, resistance (body weight or weights), balance, and high-intensity training (HIIT). For this article, we’re going to look at the first three and leave HIIT up to you and your Google search box.
Keep in mind that each form of exercise here complements the other. Combined with proper nutrition, all of these forms of exercise work together synergistically to create a strength-building routine aimed at health and longevity. Which is exactly what we’re after—a longer, healthier life by way of foundational strength and balance!
These might seem like common knowledge, but you’d be surprised how many people either skip the important aerobic portion of exercise and just lift weights, or vice versa. So, however simple, be sure to include some kind of aerobic exercise in your strength training routine. This can look like hiking, trail running, walking, swimming, bicycling, nordic skiing, hitting the elliptical or rowing machines at the gym, or any other kind of aerobic movement you like.
The benefits of aerobic exercise? Well, if you (hopefully) choose aerobic exercises that you actually enjoy doing, then you get to feel the joy of doing them. You’ll also get the added benefits of decreased stress, improved insulin resistance, decreased risk for cardiac disease, and lower blood pressure, to name a few.
In addition to being essential to building muscle mass and strength, resistance training (weight lifting) and body weight exercises are excellent for increasing bone density—another thing that *sigh* decreases with age 🙄.
For resistance exercises, you do not have to go to the gym. Bodyweight exercises, kettlebell workouts, and weightlifting can be done from home if that’s what works best for you. Some of the best resistance exercises include basic squats, calf raises, and hamstring curls for the bottom half, and bicep curls, pushups, and rows for the upper half. For a more concrete strength building routine that aims for overall health and longevity, definitely check out this functional kettlebell workout. And remember, resistance training can be done with weights or your bodyweight. Either one works, so long as you do it!
The benefits of resistance training? Among other things, resistance exercise is huge for helping us build and maintain muscle mass, as well as decrease the risk of frailty (while increasing overall health) as we age.
Whether you already include balance exercises in your daily workouts or you’re about to, the point is that they are a must. Especially once we start entering into our late 30’s and early 40’s.
A few simple balance exercises you can and should incorporate into your strength building routine include standing on one leg, tai chi, and heel-to-toe standing or walking. For a more in-depth look at some of the best balance exercises for longevity and health, give this a quick read.
The benefits of balance exercises? As we age, our balance diminishes and the risk for falls increases with each passing month (exciting, right?). But, working on balance often and early on is key to maintaining it and an essential part of an overall healthy aging strategy.
Here’s another proven fact: in order to stay active we need to keep our feet healthy. Period.
Our feet are the foundation for almost everything we do and, without their fully functioning presence, it can be much harder to build and maintain muscle mass for longevity.
If your feet can't support you, it’s quite difficult to maintain muscle mass through resistance training. And if you can’t incorporate resistance training, balance exercises, and aerobics into your days, well, the downward spiral away from health and longevity happens fast.
Not to worry (too much), though! You can be proactive and take charge of your foot health by way of a few simple exercises and stretches done roughly three times a week. From toe splaying and big-toe stretching, to sand walking, achilles stretching, and more, there are a number of easily integratable ways to strengthen your feet and create a solid foundation for building and maintaining muscle mass.
For a closer look at why it’s important to strengthen your feet, as well as the best foot exercises and stretches, check out this article and then get to work—today, not tomorrow.
To learn more about how Tread & Butter can change your world from the ground up—including healthier feet through improved support—check out our high-quality insoles or send us a note about your specific insole needs. We’re always here to inform, support (literally), and help keep your feet strong, flexible, and healthy.