Health Topics

Healthy Living

August 2011
Practice Makes Them Perfect
Army men suffer less injuries than other fit people – because muscles remember!

In our daily life we perform certain motor activities regularly. These actions become ‘set’ and are performed without thinking. Examples are: walking, running, climbing up and down stairs, riding a bicycle etc. Repetition of motor action causes the neuromuscular system to ‘remember’ the action. After a while the action is performed without consciously thinking about it. This is called Muscle Memory.

Muscle Memory involves:
  • Formation of new connections or reinforcement of certain existing connections in the nervous system
  • Changes in the size and strength of the muscles.
Most of us have specific motor tasks in relation to our occupation e.g., typing, driving, lifting weights, etc. Most of these tasks are done in an efficient manner when done repeatedly. This is because of muscle memory and conditioning of the body to the particular task wherein lesser attention is required while motor and memory systems are already on the job owing to multiple number of previous experiences. Muscle memory developed through repetition of a movement over time, further allows that specific task to be performed without any conscious effort.

Advantages of Being in the Armed Forces
  • Armed Forces personnel go through rigorous long term training which involves muscle strengthening, endurance training, survival techniques, skills and conditioning to different climates/terrains.
  • They undergo training in various types of defensive and offensive combat manoeuvres.
  • They are taught specific techniques like handling heavy objects, how to break a fall, how to roll down a slope, etc.
  • They participate in physical sports on a regular basis to maintain their levels of fitness and training.
  • They have healthy, balanced diets, which help them to stay fit.
Muscle memory related to strength training probably involves elements of both motor learning and long-lasting changes in the muscle tissue.Strength training enhances communication between the nervous system and the muscles.

As a result, men from the Armed Forces have a large repertoire of specific motor patterns that help them to avoid straining, avoid injuries and react to potentially hazardous situations quickly and instinctively. In addition, they can take a lot more physical stress due to their strength and endurance training. Even when they become old, the techniques they have learnt help them to withstand physical challenges better than untrained men.

However, a lot of recruits and personnel do suffer from injuries. This is because of the constant need to push oneself and achieve more. It is also because of the tasks and duties that are assigned to them which are physically demanding. Careful attention to detail and following standard practices greatly reduces these risks.

Muscle Memory
Do the muscles remember? Yes they do, as a matter of fact. Muscle memory results in the various-related tasks becoming easier for being performed after previous practice, even if the task has not been performed for a while. Strength trained army men experience a rapid return of muscle mass and strength even after long periods of inactivity.Until recently, all such effects were largely attributed to motor learning occurring in the central nervous system, but long term effects of previous training on the muscle fibres have been proved. Quite opposite to the notion, that, effects of strength training on muscles was reversible and that after a long period of de-training, the muscle fibres returned to their previous state, there are actually long lasting structural changes seen in muscle fibres.

Dr.J.W.Kulkarni is Senior Consultant Arthroscopy, Joint Replacement and Shoulder Surgery Apollo Hospital Bangalore
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