“You need to mix up your exercise routine so your muscles don’t get used to it.”

Have you heard that advice before? This is termed muscle confusion and is built on the fact that as the body “gets used to” an exercise, or builds muscle memory, it burns fewer calories.  The narrow focus that calorie burning is the main reason to exercise has led to this confusion about muscle memory.

If you are exercising to lose weight, let’s take a step back. Why do you want to lose weight? To make everyday tasks and fun activities easier? To be more comfortable in your body? To reduce pain?  To feel better? To improve health? And, I am guessing, you want those great benefits to last, right?

If that sounds like what you want, muscle memory is your friend!

To make something easier, such as playing an instrument or learning a second language, it takes practice. Exercise is just practice for the things you want to be easier, more comfortable, more fun. If you are always practicing something different, your body does not build muscle memory as well.

In everyday life, we need strength for movements like bending down and getting back up, stepping up, lifting overhead, pushing, pulling, lifting and carrying objects. Doing these movements in the way the body was designed, on a regular basis, at a level that comfortably challenges them over and above the level of daily life, will make them easier. This is why muscle memory is your friend – you get the ease of movement you truly want from weight loss.

And, your body is still burning calories! The total decrease in calories burned from muscle memory is small. Instead of playing that numbers game you just can’t win, put your energy into reducing the calories you take in from eating for reasons other than hunger. These calories can add up much more. Use exercise to help you feel better so you are less likely to look to food for comfort.

The muscle confusion approach is yet another example of how the fitness industry takes one small slice of science and applies it in a way that is very profitable. Yet, it leaves people who want fitness that improves health and function missing out on exercising in a way that sustains their body and motivation.

The bottom line: Life can be complicated and confusing enough! Your exercise time does not need to be. Your body does adapt and yes, because it is smart, it will burn a few less calories for an activity when it builds muscle memory.  The calorie difference is not worth what you are missing out on by focusing on muscle confusion. Focus on muscle memory and enjoy a body that makes it easier to enjoy your life!

Be Well Now,