Muscular strength is the amount of force a muscle can produce with a single maximum effort. It depends on such factors as the size of muscle cells and the ability of nerves to activate muscle cells. Strong muscles are important for everyday activities, such as climbing stairs, as well as for emergency situations. They help keep the skeleton in proper alignment, preventing back and leg pain and providing the support necessary for good posture. Muscular strength has obvious importance in recreational activities. Strong people can hit a tennis ball harder, kick a soccer ball farther, and ride a bicycle uphill more easily.
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Muscle tissue is an important element of overall body composition. Greater muscle mass means faster energy use and a higher rate of metabolism, and the sum of all the vital processes by which food energy and nutrients are made available to and used by the body. Greater muscle mass reduces markers of oxidative stress and maintains mitochondria (the “powerhouses” of the cell); both of these benefits are important for metabolic health and long life. Training to build muscular strength can also help people manage stress and boost their self-confidence.
Maintaining strength and muscle mass is vital for healthy aging. Stronger people live longer. Older people tend to experience a decrease in both number and size of muscle cells, a condition called sarcopenia. Many of the remaining muscle cells become slower, and some become nonfunctional because they lose their attachment to the nervous system. Strength training (also known as resistance training or weight training) increases antioxidant enzymes and lowers oxidative stress. It also helps maintain muscle mass and function and possibly helps decrease the risk of osteoporosis (bone loss) in older people, greatly enhancing their quality of life and preventing life-threatening injuries.