By Bentz Tozer, Jr., B.S., CPT
Osteoporosis is a condition that primarily affects post-menopausal women.
After menopause, estrogen production and bone density decreases. This loss of bone density is known as osteoporosis.
Strength training is an important part of any exercise program, but is especially important for the prevention of osteoporosis, or for women who have already developed osteoporosis. Strength training can not only prevent this condition, it also increases bone density, in effect, reversing it.
This is because of the relationship between bones and muscles. As the muscle pulls against the bone during an exercise, it stresses the bone. This stress causes the bone to reinforce itself by driving calcium into the bone, increasing the strength of the bone. Basically, when your bones become stressed, they take action to strengthen themselves.
It is imperative to begin a strength-training program early. Doctors who study aging have discovered that muscle building at the ages of 20, 30 and 40 helps protect the body from injury as you age. Strong muscles help keep bones stronger for longer.
Ideally, strength training should be done two to three times a week for 30 to 45 minutes each time. Make sure to work each body part for maximum results. Hire a personal trainer to customize a workout for you, or use circuit training to make sure you are working all parts of the body.
The best exercises for bone-building are ones that put force on the bone; resistance exercise like strength training, or weight-bearing exercise, like walking or running.
Another benefit with strength training is improved muscle strength. Stronger muscles leads to improved balance, which leads to fewer falls. Falls are the leading cause of bone fractures in the elderly. There are several studies that have proven that elderly people (people over the age of 70), who did strength training two to three times per week, showed improved strength, mobility and balance, plus avoided bone loss and even increased their bone density.
In Prescription Alternatives, Professor Earl Mindell and Virginia Hopkins report the following: “Older women who did high-intensity weight training two days per week for a year were able to increase their bone density by 1 percent, while a control group of women who did not exercise had a bone density decrease of 1.8 percent to 2.5 percent, and also lost muscle mass while gaining body fat and weight. The weight lifters became much more active in general (the researchers calculated a 27 percent percent increase), while the sedentary group became less active.”
It is never too late to begin strength training. It is a key addition to any exercise program because of how quickly and efficiently it improves muscle strength and builds bone density.