Our muscles are highly specialised tissues that have the capacity to extend their capabilities in response to external stimuli such as exercise and training. Sports physiologists are only just beginning to understand how muscles really work, and they have encountered a few puzzles along the way.
One of the biggest puzzles is why exercise has so many beneficial effects; yet exercising muscle is one of the biggest producers of free radicals. This review, published in the journal, Biomolecules, summarises current knowledge.
Indeed, skeletal muscle contractions do produce a type of free radical called reactive oxygen species (ROS). Levels of ROS become elevated after both short bouts of exercise as well as during endurance exercise, and these free radicals can reduce muscle power and increase muscle wasting.
But evidence shows that the production of ROS during exercise actually triggers the release of natural body antioxidants. Levels of antioxidant release appear to correlate with exercise regularity: a triathlete releases significantly more antioxidants than a person going for a sporadic run. In fact, non-regular strenuous exercise could be highly detrimental.
So instead of trying to catch up on weeks of missed activity in a single, high-intensity session, do small amounts of exercise initially and gradually build up. Then make sure you keep exercising every day!
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