Bone health is essential for a healthy and active life. Bones provide our body with structural support, protect vital organs, and store minerals like calcium. As we age, our bones start to lose density and strength, which increases the risk of fractures and other conditions like osteoporosis. To keep our bones healthy, a balanced diet and regular exercise are essential. Resistance training or weight lifting is a popular exercise that can improve bone density significantly. This post will explore how regular resistance training combined with other healthy habits can improve bone health, reduce the risk of falls and fractures, and enhance overall quality of life.
Exercise for Osteoporosis
Exercise for osteoporosis is an important piece of reducing the risk and even reversing osteoporosis. There are many forms of exercise that can improve bone density including weight bearing exercise, resistance training, and balance exercises.
Resistance training, or muscle strengthening exercises, are one of the most effective ways to improve gain bone mineral density. Resistance training exercises can include weight lifting, using resistance bands, and doing bodyweight exercises like squats and push-ups. During resistance training, the bones are stressed under greater than body weight load, which causes the body to undergo a process called remodeling that helps stimulate the formation of new bone tissue. This process leads to an increase in bone mineral density, strength, and flexibility. Studies have shown that resistance training exercises can improve bone mineral density (BMD), especially in postmenopausal women. (1)
Strength training exercises can come in all shapes and sizes. Some people choose to use free weights such as bench press, barbell squats, or bicep curls. Some people choose body weight exercises such as pull ups, air squats, sit ups, stair climbing, and push ups.
Preventing Fall and Fractures
Besides having strong bones, it is important to also take measures to prevent falls and bone fractures. Working to improve balance to reduce the risk of falls and subsequently, broken bones is an important aspect of an exercise program for people with osteoporosis. Balance exercises include things like tai chi, soft surface balance training, and vestibular training. A program that improves balance will help preventing falls and therefore decrease the potential of
Resistance training is particularly effective because the muscles that pull on the bones create tension, which stimulates bone growth. When muscles are stimulated through resistance training, they pull on the bone, promoting an increase in BMD. This increase in BMD can lead to a decreased risk of fractures from falls. Resistance training also helps in improving balance, joint stability, and coordination, reducing the risk of falls. Additionally, resistance training can lower the risk of injuries like sprains, strains, and fractures by improving the strength and stability of bones. (2)
People with osteoporosis and osteopenia should consider an exercise program that targets muscle strength, weight bearing exercises, and posture exercises. On top of all of this, general physical activity
Preventing Bone Loss
In addition to resistance training, other healthy habits can also contribute to improving bone health. Vitamin D and calcium are essential nutrients for maintaining healthy bones. Foods such as eggs, dairy products, fatty fish and foods fortified with vitamin D can help maintain desired levels of bone-strengthening nutrients in the body. Additionally, weight-bearing activities such as walking and light jogging can also be beneficial for bone health. In combination with resistance training, these activities can contribute to overall bone health and reduce the risk of falls. (3)
While it is true that bone health often becomes a pressing issue as we age, it is important to understand that it is not exclusively a problem for older adults. Osteoporosis, a condition associated with low BMD and increased risk of fractures, can also affect younger adults, especially if they have certain risk factors such as a family history of the disease, inadequate nutrition, or lack of regular exercise, particularly resistance and weight-bearing activities. In fact, peak bone mass is reached in our 20s. What we do in the earlier stages of life significantly influences our bone health in later years. Therefore, it is crucial to adopt a healthy lifestyle, which includes resistance training, right from our youth to maximize bone density and reduce the likelihood of bone-related health issues in the future.
In conclusion, people with osteoporosis have many tools to reduce the impact of bone disease. Resistance training improves bone health through the process of remodeling, which can lead to an increase in bone density, strength, and flexibility. It can also help reduce the risk of falls and fractures by improving balance, joint stability and coordination. Additionally, a balanced diet, adequate vitamin and calcium intake, and weight-bearing activities can contribute to overall bone health, reducing the risk of falls and increasing overall quality of life. If you are looking for ways to improve your bone health, consider incorporating resistance training and other healthy habits into your lifestyle to promote better health outcomes. A physical therapist can help people with osteoporosis set up a bone health exercise program aimed at all the areas covered in this blog.
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Vincent, K. R., Braith, R. W., & Feldman, R. A. (2002). Resistance exercise and bone turnover in elderly men and women. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 34(1), 17–23. doi: 10.1097/00005768-200201000-00004.
Howe, T. E., Shea, B., Dawson, L. J., Downie, F., Murray, A., Ross, C., … Creed, G. (2011). Exercise for preventing and treating osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. doi: 10.1002/14651858.cd000333.pub2
Exercise: Benefits of Exercise for Your Bones, Muscles and Joints. OrthoInfo. AAOS. Retrieved 23 February 2022, from https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/staying-healthy/exercise-benefits-for-your-bones-and-joints/