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There are more than 650 different muscles in your body, and each and every one is controlled by your nervous system. Understanding how the nervous system interacts with and controls various types of muscles can help you visualize what is happening with each and every move you make, whether you’re lifting heavy weights or you’re simply walking down the sidewalk.
All 650 muscles in your body fall into one of three categories.
Whether you voluntarily cause your muscles to contract or your body does it for you, it’s all under the control of your nervous system.
The most important components of the nervous system are the brain and the spinal cord. Inside your brain are millions of neurons that are constantly communicating back and forth with one another via chemicals called neurotransmitters. Your spinal cord, then, is like a superhighway through which electrical signals from your brain travel. Your nerves are the smallest branches of your nervous system. They’re connected to all of your muscles and organs – smooth, visceral and cardiac – and they tell those muscles when to contract and when to relax so that your body can function properly.
Everything you do, from smiling to taking a step, requires coordination between multiple muscle groups. When you think about shaking someone’s hand, for example, your brain, which is part of your nervous system, sends signals down your spinal cord. Then, those signals travel through the nerves which stimulate the muscles you want to control to contract. As a result, you are able to reach forward, grasp someone’s hand, and shake it firmly. This complex process is made possible by your nervous system. That’s why your heart continues to beat even if you don’t think about it, and it’s how you continue to breathe without consciously making your lungs expand.
When it comes to your body, chances are good that you spend far more time thinking about your muscles than your nervous system. However, if it wasn’t for your nervous system, especially your brain and spinal cord, your muscles would be unable to contract and grow. That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need; they’ll help keep your brain, your spine, and your nerves strong.