When discussing bone health, we often talk about proper nutrition. Adequate vitamin D and calcium intake are usually recommended to enhance bone mineral density (BMD). What is not discussed as often is the role of exercise and weight training for increasing bone strength. A holistic approach looking at what we put IN our body as well as what we DO with our body is the key for building stronger bones.
As we age our body experiences several physiological changes. Our hormone levels change, muscle mass declines, and bones become less dense. Low bone density, otherwise known as osteopenia, increases our risk of fracture. Although we can bounce back from a slip or fall in our early years, a hip fracture in older individuals can have detrimental effects on quality of life. The good news is, there are important steps you can take to prevent or slow down the decline of BMD.
Research has demonstrated that healthy individuals and patients with osteoporosis can improve BMD with high-moderate impact activities and resistance training. A few examples of high impact exercises include step classes, jogging, and jumping jacks. Resistance or weight training on the other hand can include elastic band, pully, and free-weight based exercises. To put it simply, the more force you transmit through the bone, the more the bone will remodel and grow! Clinical judgment is needed to determine the intensity of force that each patient can tolerate.
Recent studies have found that high-intensity resistance training and impact training improves BMD and physical function in postmenopausal women. Low-intensity and light-resistance exercise programs are not enough to stimulate bone remodelling and improve BMD. Heavy multi-joint compound exercises such as squats and deadlifts induce extensive muscle recruitment and transmit greater force through the bones. In particular, these exercises will apply force through the lumbar spine and femoral neck, making them stronger and more resilient to fracture. Proper form and supervision are crucial when performing any high intensity or heavy loading activities.
Talk to a primary health care provider about your BMD and if an exercise program for developing BMD is right for you. Not only will exercise strengthen your bones, but it will have profound impacts on many other systems of the body as well. As always, if you have any question do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my Instagram page @drkylearam!
Sinaki M. Exercise for patients with established osteoporosis. InNon-Pharmacological Management of Osteoporosis 2017 (pp. 75-96). Springer, Cham.
Mounsey A, Jones A, Tybout C. Does a formal exercise program in postmenopausal women decrease osteoporosis and fracture risk?. Evidence-Based Practice. 2019 Apr 1;22(4):29-31.