What’s one of the best ways to prevent osteoporosis? According to many experts in the field of bone health, it’s exercise. More specifically, strength training offers many benefits for men and women at risk of bone loss from osteoporosis.
Strength training, also called resistance training, uses resistance from free weights, resistance bands, and water exercise or weight machines to help build strength in muscles. It also can help work on the bones to prevent the loss of minerals that weaken them. In fact, according to sports doctors, strength training can increase your bone strength, reduce your risk of osteoporosis, improve the strength of your connective tissues, which increases joint stability and increase the functional strength of your muscles.
If you already have osteoporosis, say doctors, strength training can still benefit you in many ways, but you should work with your doctor or an experienced physical therapist to design a workout that will benefit your bones without increasing the risk of stress or compression fractures.
If your main intent is to prevent osteoporosis, you should work with heavier weights and more resistance. A study conducted at the University of Arizona and published in Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise gives some answers to that. In that study, scientists recruited 140 post menopausal women with a history of sedentary lifestyle for a year-long regimen of three time’s weekly workouts. The women performed eight exercises specifically chosen to work on particular muscle groups .Scientists took bone scans both before and after the study. The results showed that the chosen exercises had a measurable effect on the bones of the hips, site of the most common fractures in post menopausal women. They also found that the greater the amount of total weight lifted over the course of the year, the greater the benefits to the bones.
If you’re just starting a resistance and strength training program, doctors and physical therapists offer the following tips:
Consult your doctor and follow a program designed by a physical therapist which takes your strengths and needs into account.
Work out at a gym or health club under the supervision of professionals who can help monitor and adjust your workout program.
Start slow and build gradually. Strength and resistance training is a slow process.
Never increase weights in resistance training more than 10% at a time. Increasing more than that risks injury.
Lift and lower weights slowly. Avoid ‘jerking’ them up to avoid injury.
Perform your resistance workout every third day.
Avoid exercise that puts a lot of strain on your joints and bones, and stay away from the rowing machine. The bending required puts your spine at risk of compression fractures.
If any area is particularly tender or stiff immediately after a workout, apply ice to it for 10-15 minutes to reduce inflammation.
Proper exercise, weight control and a healthy diet all contribute to keeping your bones strong and preventing the loss of bone density due to osteoporosis. Do your bones a favor and give them a good workout a couple of times a week.