Squat, and keep the system going!
Do you know what is the largest organ in the body? And by “organ” I mean the biological term of a tissue that has a specific function, produces and secretes substances, and communicates with all the other organs in the body (including your brain). Well, not until very recently I learned that the skeletal muscle is the largest organ in our body, and one of utmost importance for overall physical, emotional, and cognitive health.
This fact changes the entire perspective on movement and exercise as it provides a conceptual basis and a whole new paradigm for understanding the role of muscles and their relationship to overall health, performance and longevity. It is not about looking fit anymore, it’s about having healthy and active muscles that can take you through life.
The skeletal muscle is an endocrine organ producing and releasing hormone-like substances that talk directly to your brain and all the parts in your body (liver, pancreas, skin, etc.). The quid is that for this organ to function, it is under your voluntary control. You have the power to move, and movement creates energy for the rest of your body. The contrary is also true, a sedentary life and little movement will deteriorate your muscles, and consequently, it will have an impact on other functions of the body and brain.
So, knowing this, why not increase the focus and care for our muscles? Here is something you can do every day, many times a day, even if you put in a hard workout as part of your routine. That is Squats.
What are Squats?
Squats involve lowering the body into a seated position and then standing back up, mimicking common movements of our daily lives, such as picking objects, getting dressed, getting up from a bed or chair, or even going to “the loo”).
Squats are a compound and weight-bearing exercise that targets multiple muscle groups simultaneously. They primarily work the muscles of the lower body; however, squats also engage the core, lower back, and upper body, making them a true full-body workout. This means that incorporating squats into your routine can efficiently and effectively work for multiple muscle groups, leading to improved overall strength and functionality. They are demanding and require a significant amount of energy from your lower body, leading to increased blood flow from the larger muscle groups to your heart and organs.
For this reason, squats have become the go-to place for many specialists as an exercise that can be practiced daily and many times per day to keep the muscles working, producing and secreting substances to maintain balance.
Squat to boost your brain
There are enough studies on how people who exercise regularly (regularity is an important word) benefit from a positive mood and improved cognition, among other things. Mostly, this has been attributed to the primary four chemicals released when exercising (endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin).
What’s emerged over the last couple of decades, most notably recently by Dr. Pedersen at the University of Copenhagen, is that there are other substances being secreted by our skeletal muscle (myokines) that are having hormone effects crossing the blood/brain barrier creating a change in the structure of your brain in ways that make you more resilient to stress, more adaptive to challenges and better at cognitive abilities.
Setting yourself to squat for several reps many times a day, maybe the reason why you will feel healthier, happier, and more productive: 10 times while the coffee brews, while on a call, while at work (at home or in the office), after a washroom visit and before going to bed takes you from 0 to 50 reps in a day. Let those myokines and happy hormones reach your brain.
The sit-to-stand test has been used as a simple and quick clinical tool to assess physical performance and functional capacity in adults. It typically involves timing how long it takes for an individual to stand up from a chair without using the arms and then sit back down, usually for a specific number of repetitions (5 or 10 times, for example). The time taken to complete the task can be used as an objective measure of physical performance.
A similar idea has been trending in social media challenging people to stand up from the floor with no hand support. The ability to stand without support, from a chair or from the floor, also known as the “sit-to-stand” test is considered a functional movement that is important for daily activities such as getting up from a sitting position, climbing stairs, or performing other weight-bearing tasks it has a close relationship with healthy aging. It requires strength, balance, and mobility, which are essential components of functional and physical health and requires coordination which is part of mental fitness.
One way to prepare yourself to master this test at any given time is to squat every day, for several repetitions, and to start at the level in which you are today. As you become more comfortable and proficient with squats, you can gradually increase the frequency, and the reps, and maybe put in some weights or resistance. Pay attention to your body’s signals and avoid pushing through pain or discomfort. (If you feel pain or discomfort during squats, stop and assess your form, there are plenty of great videos out there).
Put in some squats, it’s a simple way to care daily for your muscles. Remember, it is the largest organ in your body (and some will say, the most important of all!).
Stay active, Rosana