In our ageing society, our bones are getting weaker. Due to its nature, we rarely realise that our bones are weakening until something happens – such as a fall or fracture. The good news is that we can increase bone strength and really make a difference!
Why are our bones getting weaker?
Bone strength builds through the years peaking in early adulthood. Bone growth is stimulated by activities and therefore a varied physical activity program is key to healthy bones in the younger population.
As we age bones weaken due to inactivity, hormone levels, lack of calcium and other minerals. In females, the menopause triggers a significant loss of minerals in bone tissue. In men, the gradual decline in sex hormones is also a factor.
These issues lead to the increased prevalence of osteopenia and osteoporosis. Osteopenia is a reduction in bone mineral density whereas osteoporosis is characterised by a reduction in bone mass and increased risk of frailty and falls.
Why Strength Training?
When we perform strength exercises the muscles pull on the skeletal system. This tension on the skeletal system causes remodelling of the bone stimulating growth and making the bone stronger. It’s the ability to put muscles and therefore bone under tension that makes strength training the best type of training for strengthening bones.
The Benefits of Strength Training
Strength training will not only strengthen your bones, it will also strengthen your muscles and therefore make your everyday life easier through increased work capacity.
Studies in middle aged men, post-menopausal females, older adults and the frail elderly have all found that 6 months of strength training can significantly increase bone mineral density. In studies involving those over 60, strength training has been shown to reduce falls by up to 60%. Falls in this age group can lead to lower activity levels and a loss of strength & fitness leading to a reduced level of independence.
What do I need to do?
As recommended by the Chief Medical officers Guidelines on Physical Activity, we should be looking to perform strength training twice a week. Each session should consist of exercises that challenge the whole body such as squats, lunges, pushing and pulling. Exercises should be chosen for the individual – especially if the person is in pain. For optimum benefit, the exercises should be graded and progressed to ensure there is continual stimulation to promote development.
What else can help?
High Impact Aerobics
Further research has also suggested the benefit of high impact ‘aerobic’ based exercise such as running, stepping, skipping and jumping as a complement to strength training. As above this would have to be well selected for the individual.
Previous research has mentioned the benefits of walking for bone health but evidence is lacking probably due to the lack of additional stimulus. However, when has walking not been a bad idea?
As ever nutrition is vital, a diet with sufficient calcium and vitamin D is essential. To complement this, sufficient protein is also key in ensuring those muscles you are using also strengthen. Here’s a great download from our recommended resource, Precision Nutrition – Nutrition for Bone Health.
Reach out if we can help!