Do Soleus Pushups Really Improve Your Metabolism?

The latest TikTok fitness trend isn’t a new treadmill routine or push-up challenge: It’s seated calf raises.

Namely, it uses the soleus muscle, which runs from the bottom of the knee to the ankle. Published in the journal iScienceResearchers at the University of Houston found that “soleus pushups” (SPUs) — which involve raising and lowering your heels while seated — can help your body regulate glucose and improve fat metabolism.

TikTokkers have gotten wind of the research, and some have released viral videos about simple ways to juice up your metabolism.

In fact, experts agree that these results are exciting. Your metabolism can slow down when you sit still for long periods of time, so SPU can be a way to inject an activity that has a meaningful impact into the lives of people who would otherwise sit still for hours on end.

“The interesting thing here, which I haven’t seen before, is the development of a protocol that can negate some of the negative effects of inactivity while still sitting,” said exercise physiologist Sharon Gumm, PhD, CSCS, who was not involved. study. “It has the potential to be very powerful.”

Some of the negative effects of being sedentary include the risk of developing diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, heart disease and other conditions.

Specifically, a University of Houston study found that SPUs can increase your “local oxidative metabolism.” Brittany Masteller, PhD and research scientist at Orangetheory Fitness, who was not involved in the study, explains that local oxidative metabolism is “how much energy your body is able to produce/use.”

An improved local oxidative metabolism efficiently turns fat and carbohydrates into energy without raising your glucose either way, while a sluggish person processes those molecules less efficiently. (Think about how much less energy you’d get from sitting on the couch or at your desk if you weren’t moving around.) Those who sit still for long periods of time may be interested in increasing that metabolism (or energy level), fat, to help control blood glucose. Burns and protects against metabolic conditions.

“These findings reveal a potential tool for improving muscle metabolic rate during inactivity,” says Masteller.

A low-effort movement you can do sitting down that boosts your metabolic activity and prevents disease? Good to hear! However, some important points should be kept in mind.

Most notably, Gam noted that research methods involved people performing SPU continuously for three to four hours at a time, at least 50 times per minute without stopping for more than four minutes at a time.

“Research has shown that people don’t report discomfort or fatigue doing this movement for so long, which I was really surprised by,” says Gam. “If I did calf raises for four hours, even unloading using my lower leg weight, I thought I would eventually tire. But I haven’t tried it so I guess I can’t say for sure.”

The study authors explain that these muscles don’t fatigue because they don’t rely on glycogen for fuel, as most muscles do.

“The soleus’ lower-than-normal dependence on glycogen helps the muscle work effortlessly for hours without tiring during this type of activity, because the muscle has a certain endurance limit due to glycogen depletion,” said study author Mark Hamilton, professor of health and human resources at the University of Houston. performance.

But Masteller is also skeptical about how feasible this approach actually is.

“We should be careful to extrapolate the results to real-world applications,” she says. “The research was performed in a tightly controlled laboratory environment, which is not the same as performing SPUs at their work desks in a free-living environment.”

The point is, we know from research that raising calves to three to four hours of continuous sitting is likely to shut down our glucose-regulating metabolism. But we don’t know the potential impact of doing anything less than that, let alone SPUs on our own outside the carefully constructed confines of the lab.

Gam sees SPUs as “a good tool to add to the toolbox of ways to reduce health risks”. But is it a metabolism-firing, fat-burning magic bullet? Well, in fitness, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. In the case of the soleus pushup, this is a classic case of promising research being oversimplified and exaggerated for social media. A story as old as time (or at least, as old as TikTok).

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