By now you should be no stranger to osteoporosis: the disease that affects the bones by stripping them of their strength and density, leading to approximately 1.5 million fractures each year. With over 9 million women diagnosed already, just knowing osteoporosis exists isn’t enough. But how do you begin fighting a battle that’s been going on for decades?
As counter-intuitive as it may be, the answer may lie in lifting weights. Recent studies suggest that lifting weights may help prevent the loss of bone density before osteoporosis has a chance to set in. Are you ready to get to lifting?
What research has been done about osteoporosis and lifting weights?
Over the past decade, numerous studies have indicated a positive relationship between weight lifting and osteoporosis. These studies have included both cross sectional studies and longitudinal studies. Although there have been a few who have not shown this relationship, these studies also have weaknesses in how they were conducted. Many agree that the research is in favor of using weights and exercise to prevent or help minimize the effects of osteoporosis. Researchers say that while calcium supplements are helpful, they are not enough to prevent bone loss on their own. Women need the exercise to help their bodies use the calcium to the best of its abilities.
A year long study in Ontario found that women past menopause who completed a yearlong strength training program were able to increase their bone mass in their spines by an average of 9 percent, compared to a control group who experienced a loss of bone mass. In the publication Prescription Alternatives, two researchers found that women who did high intensity weight training two days a week improved their bone density by 1 percent, compared to a 1 to 2.5 percent bone density loss in those who did not participate in the program. The exercise also helped to improve balance and strength, which also help improve the quality of life for seniors.
What about women already facing osteoporosis?
Although the ideal would be for women to begin strength training long before menopause and risk for osteoporosis sets in, women who are already dealing with osteoporosis or at high risk for developing the disease can also benefit from beginning a weight training program. Although is is commonly believed that those with poor bone density should not use weights to exercise, out of fear of causing fractures, many find the opposite to be true. With proper medical supervision, those who have already begun to develop osteoporosis can help improve their bone conditions by developing a tailored exercise program. Those with osteoporosis can benefit from a range of exercises. Balance and flexibility training can help with preventing falls while weight bearing exercises and weight lifting exercises help to build muscle and bone density.
What types of exercises are best?
While women who have not exercised recently, or have already developed osteoporosis, should always verify with their doctors about a proper exercise regimen to avoid potential injury, there are certain types of exercises that have been singled out as being particularly beneficial. For example, weight machines, free weights, and elastic exercise bands are often useful. Weight bearing exercises, such as elliptical machines, can also be good for women, especially those who have already begun to experience significant bone loss. While aerobic exercises, such as swimming, are very good for the cardiovascular system, they do not help women build muscle. For this reason, relying entirely on these types of exercises may help a person remain heart healthy but will not help with osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis can be a difficult condition to handle. It can be detrimental to a person’s quality of life and cause many painful fractures. Preventing the condition should begin long before a woman hits menopause, but many people do not worry about it until the threat is upon them. Fortunately, weight training exercises have been shown to benefit senior woman and even help them improve bone density. No longer should weights be considered male – only territory. When done correctly, they can help women of all ages.
For any questions about how you can start fighting osteoporosis before it sets in, give us a call! We’d love to help you!