Why Weight Training Is Important for Long-Term Bone Health
Today I have the first guest post in a while on my blog, and I’m excited to bring you this article from a Physiotherapist in the U.K., Kulraj Singh. Kulraj is the founder of Tavistock Clinic in Crawley, West Sussex, and he has treated over 10,000 patients as a sports physical therapist.
In this article, Kulraj shares some insights on one of the most important benefits of weight training, and that is the effect it has on bone health. Read on to learn more…
Muscle strength and endurance is important, there’s no doubt.
An overlooked part of our overall well-being, however, is our bone health.
It’s not widely known that our bones actually weaken as we age, as bones naturally lose calcium and other minerals over time. This is known as bone resorption.
In addition, our spinal vertebrae have soft cushions in between them known as discs, which gradually lose fluid and become thinner. This is often the reason we see the elderly generation with a poor posture, and reduced height.
Our bone strength is important, because all muscles attach to bones, therefore without bone strength we often also lose muscle function.
Bone strength also allows us to be more resistant to accidents. There is a medical condition called osteoporosis (weakening of the bones), and one of the key signs when diagnosing this condition is hip fractures.
Often hip fractures can occur in the elderly, even without a fall, due to how weak the bones are.
Therefore the stronger our bones are, the less of a risk we are to injury. The question therefore becomes, how do we strengthen our bones?
There are many factors that we have to take into account when answering this question, some of which are out of our control such as our genetic susceptibility to bone weakening.
However, the scientific literature suggests there are things we can do to promote bone health.
Earlier we discussed how bones lose minerals over time. The term used to discuss the quantity of our bone minerals is Bone Mineral Density (BMD).
BMD is another one of the measures doctors use to diagnose osteoporosis, as higher BMD is associated with higher bone strength, and lower BMD is associated with reduced bone strength.
Therefore if we can improve the quantity of bone minerals we can strengthen the bones, making them more resistant to stress/loads and slowing the course of natural degeneration.
One of the most effective ways to do this is weight training.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2011 looked at 34 men and women aged 18-23 and concluded:
“Results indicate that 24 weeks of resistance training, including squat and deadlift exercises, is effective in increasing BMD in young healthy men.”
It’s worth noting that in this study there was an increase in BMD found in women also, but it was not reported as ‘statistically significant’.
Another study done in 2013 published in Osteoporosis International found that “regular resistance training and impact-loading activities should be considered as a strategy to prevent osteoporosis in middle-aged and older men.”
A review of over 24 studies published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise concluded:
“High-intensity resistance training, in contrast to traditional pharmacological and nutritional approaches for improving bone health in older adults, has the added benefit of influencing multiple risk factors for osteoporosis including improved strength and balance and increased muscle mass.”
The reason strength training improves bone strength is because resistance exercise causes the production of ‘osteoblasts’ which are cells that lay down new bone tissue.
This is part of what is known as the ‘remodeling’ process (where new bone tissue is formed) and this remodeling is promoted with resistance exercises.
This is something we stress to all of our clients, young and old, at our Physiotherapy Clinic in Crawley.
Here are some tips to get the most from weight training as it relates to bone health and strength:
Complete a 45-60 minute workout which includes moderate to high intensity weight resistance exercises regularly – ideally multiple times per week.
Be safe: if you are attending a gym, don’t be shy to ask for help from the personal trainers on how to use the machines, and ask to have your technique assessed. This is greatly important when doing intensive exercise to prevent injury.
Stay hydrated: ensuring a fresh supply of oxygen to the muscles and bones is important as you exercise.
Expect and manage Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS): it’s a natural occurrence for a couple of days after weight training to feel sore. To help this, ensure you are sleeping well (7-8 hours per night consistently) and take up to a maximum of 1,800mg of organic powdered turmeric after a workout (potent anti-inflammatory).
I hope you find this article informative and helpful.
Kulraj Singh BSc MCSP HPC
Kulraj Singh is founder of Tavistock Clinic and musculoskeletal physical therapist in the UK. His interests are in public health, pain management and sports injuries.
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