It’s far easier to slip into a sedentary lifestyle than live an active life, isn’t it? After all, it’s nice to relax, and for most people be entertained without having to think. So instead of taking a walk, the choice may be to watch that movie that everyone is raving about on Netflix.

What Happens to Your Muscles if You are Sedentary?

Unfortunately, if you are someone that resorts to prolonged inactivity, you are risking your health. Your muscles are among the most affected areas of your body when you’re sedentary.

Muscle Atrophy

As people age, it’s common to develop a degree of sarcopenia or muscle loss. However, muscle loss can also happen due to long periods of inactivity, leading to what’s called muscle atrophy.

Muscle atrophy is a condition where you lose some of your muscle mass faster because you’re not using them for a long time. The body breaks down the unused muscles for energy. This makes you frailer, and you’ll eventually find it harder to balance your body.

Muscle Pain

Being sedentary can also lead to chronic pain because inactivity decreases muscle mass and strength. The most common effect is chronic back pain.

When you don’t engage in physical activities, the muscles that help you hold your weight become weak. What happens is that your spine then carries most of the weight, putting strain on it, and eventually, your discs degenerate.

Muscle Stiffness

When you don’t move around as much as you should, you can experience muscle stiffness. Have you ever woken up feeling sore and stiff? Your muscles feel tight, making it more difficult and uncomfortable for you to move than you normally do. It can be accompanied by pain or cramping.

Muscle stiffness can be prevented, but if you’re sedentary, muscle stiffness can become a regular occurrence in your life.

Muscle Weakness

A sedentary lifestyle makes you use your muscles less and less, leading to muscle weakness. Muscle weakness has a compounding effect. The weaker they get, the less you use them, until the muscles aren’t working properly at all.

What happens here is that because of the lack of use, some of the fibers in the muscles are partially replaced with fat. That makes the muscles more floppy and less ‘muscly looking’ so when you try to use the muscles, you feel tired easily.

Can You Reverse the Negative Effects on Your Muscles?

Yes, the good news is that the negative effects of prolonged inactivity on muscles can be reversed. Even when you lose muscles due to atrophy, you can gain muscle mass again. Your body remembers they are there, even if you can’t feel them!

Here are some steps to help you find them again:

Regular Exercise

Start increasing your physical activities. If you’ve been sedentary for as long as you can remember, don’t force yourself to become active in an instant. Start small and build your momentum.

You can start with stretches or walking around the block for 15 to 20 minutes a day. When you become more comfortable moving around, upgrade to brisk walking and then increase the number of minutes for your exercise.

Later, it will be safer and more comfortable for you to do moderate-intensity exercises, particularly those that are meant to build and strengthen your muscles.

Eat a Healthy Diet

With proper nutrition, you can rebuild your muscles. Make sure that every meal contains protein, which is essential in boosting your muscle mass. You also need calcium and magnesium, which are important minerals for muscle health.

Include the following foods when building your muscles.

  • Lean red meat
  • Chicken
  • Fish such as tuna and salmon
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Nuts and other seeds
  • Bananas
  • Dark leafy vegetables

Adding all these foods to your diet can help to improve your muscle health.

Drink Plenty of Water

Water helps your muscles function as they should, so you need to make sure you are hydrated. Drink at least 8 glasses of water every day. If you are exercising vigorously to build your muscle mass, you may need to drink extra water to replace losses.

Dehydration during exercise can inhibit muscle repair, leading to more soreness and fatigue.

Physical Therapy

In some cases, you may need to go through rehabilitation treatment or physical therapy, especially if your condition is accompanied by other symptoms.

You should see your doctor, especially when you have pain, swelling, redness, and bruising, or other medical conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

A sedentary lifestyle or prolonged period of inactivity can lead to serious health consequences, starting with your muscles. If you don’t use your muscles, you’re going to lose them. ‘If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it!’

If you’ve experienced muscle atrophy, weakness, stiffness, or pain, it’s not too late. You can reverse the effects, no matter your age, with physical activities, regular exercise, and proper diet and nutrition.