Weight Training for your LIFE! (Or, why you shouldn’t wait until you’re 70 to worry about bone health)

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs as your bone mineral density (BMD) and bone mass decreases and your bone quality changes. Osteoporosis leads to your bones becoming brittle and increases your risk of fractures. It can also cause reduction in height, pain, and poor posture. While this disproportionately affects White and Asian women after menopause, people of all demographics are impacted. Osteopenia is the loss of bone mineral density not yet at the level to be classified as osteoporosis, but may be a precursor to developing osteoporosis in the future. Bone density scans are recommended to establish a baseline bone density level after the age of 65 but if you have a family history or other risk factors you may want to get one sooner after menopause. Read more about bone density testing here.

Peak bone density occurs around 30-35 years of age, after which everyone experiences a decrease. Whether or not you develop osteoporosis depends on this peak density (how much you have “in the tank”) and how rapidly your reserves are lost which is partly affected by nutrition and genetic factors. So, how do we slow bone loss? How can we maintain or even build bone density?

Putting bones under controlled stress is the best way to stimulate bone growth, and we can do this with exercise both directly and indirectly. The direct approach is to load the bone during exercise. The indirect approach is to build muscle which will put a low level of load on the bone even while you aren’t exercising. No matter your age, ethnicity, or sex, the research is clear: lifting weights and weight bearing activities are the best ways to load the bone and build muscle.

Building bone and muscle requires progressive loading of these tissues. Pilates, yoga, light weight/high repetition exercises have not been shown to make much or any impact on increasing bone mineral density. They are good to meet other fitness goals, but if your goal is to increase bone mass then weight lifting using weights of 80% of your 1-repetition maximum, and adding impact such as jumping and running, if you can, is your best bet.

Lifting weights, especially if you have never before, can be intimidating. If you’re in the Westchester area, we have a solution for you here at Foundations PT. Come lift with us in our weight lifting class where we will teach you how to lift and give you a good workout at the same time, so that you can build bone, muscle, strength, and confidence. Sign up here. If you have been diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis, it’s not too late to work on your bone mass but you may need some initial guidance to keep you safe. We offer one-on-one appointments to get you started.


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