April 30, 2019

Benefits of Weight and Resistance Training in Preventing Osteoporosis

 Research has shown significant results for weight and resistance training in prevention of Osteoporosis. First and foremost, Osteoporosis is a term that means porous bone, that is a disease in which the density and quality of the bone are decreased. Over time, a scan reveals that the bones become more and porous and fragile and put an individual at a greater risk for fracture. Unfortunately, this all occurs silently and progressively, often without the individual being aware and until the first fracture, many don’t have themselves checked for osteoporosis. Most of these individuals are older, but it can happen in young individuals as well. It is the most common in post-menopausal females.

There is a scale of porous bone based upon a scan called a DEXA Scan that can give an individual an idea of where their bone quality lies. It is based on a T score with ranges anywhere from above-1 to greater than -2.5. -1 and greater is considered normal and where an average person lies. -1 to -2.5 is a sign of Osteopenia, a condition in which bone density is below normal and may lead to osteoporosis. And anything greater than -2.5 means an individual likely has Osteoporosis.

Now that we have covered what Osteoporosis and the stages of Osteoporosis, it is imperative to know that research lies in weight bearing and weight resistance training that can slow the progression as well as prevent the disease in younger individuals. Also consuming a calcium rich diet throughout ones life can reduce the effects of osteoporosis as well. As far as what helps someone with Osteoporosis, or Osteopenia, first a foremost, a sedentary lifestyle encourages that decrease in bone mass that is seen. Exercise slows that rate and decreases the risk of fractures all together if done safely. Some benefits of exercise include improved physical fitness and muscle strength,  an improvement in reaction time, overall increased mobility, greater balance and coordination, reduced amount of pain, greater mood and vitality, and the obvious decreased risk of fractures. This proves there is more than just an improvement with osteoporosis, but overall health by having a simple exercise plan.

Happy senior couple sitting on fitness balls with dumbbells

Although, there are many factors that go into deciding what type of exercise program someone should follow. Some of these factors include age, severity of osteoporosis, current medications, other medical conditions, and if the main goal is to improve bone density or prevent falling. Some exercises for those with osteoporosis that are beneficial include weight-bearing activity that are aerobic such as dancing or zumba, resistance training that uses small free weights like barbells, dumbbells, elastic bands, or easy to use machines that have a weight or resistance element, and lastly, exercises that improve balance, strength, and posture such as tai chi. Although swimming is not weight bearing, for those with extreme osteoporosis, it can be recommended by doctors to increase cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength, while removing the gravity component that can put additional stress on brittle bones.

It is recommended to only do what one is comfortable with or having assistance from a trainer, or family member to avoid the risk of falling. The research reveals that 45 minutes 2-3 times a week is where the most benefits lie in a positive result for someone with or at risk for osteoporosis. Stretching is also recommended to promote flexibility and this plan must be adhered to over a relatively long time to have the ideal results. For those who have parents or family members with osteoporosis, it is often seen genetically so it is not too early to start exercising and eating right to reduce your chances of having such brittle bones in your future.

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About Geoff Rubin