Osteoporosis and the benefits of strength training

Osteoporosis is a condition that can happen to anyone and is not restricted just to women or the elderly. Although it is a condition that can make life difficult, there are ways to prevent it and it’s not just about drinking your milk.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a thinning of your bones from a loss of calcium and minerals which eventually leads your bones to become very brittle. Your bones need calcium to stay strong and so do your muscles including your heart. When your intake of calcium is low, your body will remove the calcium from your bones and send it to your blood stream where it can help keep your muscles and heart contracting. If this occurs once in a while, you are fine but it you constantly consume a diet low in calcium, you will reach a point where there is little calcium left in your bones for your body to steal and osteoporosis will be the result.

While it typically occurs in post-menopausal women, older men, adults, and former eating disorders sufferers can all be at risk of developing this condition. Typically linked to your intake of dairy foods, many people believe that the only cure or prevention for osteoporosis is to drink more milk and eat more cheese and yoghurt. While the consumption of high calcium foods is important for the prevention of osteoporosis there are other steps you can take and it’s as easy as getting some regular exercise.

Osteoporosis and exercise

Exercise, in conjunction with a diet high in calcium, is an excellent way of increasing bone strength. Weight bearing exercise such as walking, running, strength training, and aerobics all help to place pressure on your bones and muscles which in turn helps to increase the amount of bone mass or bone density you have. The stronger and thicker your bones are, the less likely they are to break.

There are many types of exercise you can do but most doctors will recommend weight bearing exercise. Weight bearing exercise requires your body (i.e. your bones and muscles), to bear your body weight and the impact of the exercise, while you are exercising.  Examples of weight bearing exercise include walking, running, strength training, skipping, sports, and gardening. By comparison, non-weight bearing exercise bears the brunt of your weight and the impact of the exercise and includes exercise such as swimming, cycling, rowing, step machines, and elliptical trainers.

While aerobic based exercise is important for your general health and well-being, many doctors and osteoporosis specialists now suggest that strength training has the most benefit in preventing and treating osteoporosis.

Strength training and osteoporosis

One of the reasons strength training is considered to be so beneficial in regards to osteoporosis is because of its effect on the body. When using weights (be it your own body weight, free weights, or weight machines), muscles and tendons are pulled on, creating small tears in the muscle and placing pressure on the tendons and bone. Just as the small tears in the muscle heal to create a stronger muscle, the pressure strength training places on your tendons and bones helps to increase the thickness and strength of your bones, therefore counteracting the effects of osteoporosis.

There are of course many other benefits to strength training, especially for older adults. Not only will regular strength training help to strengthen your bones, it will (as mentioned above) strengthen your muscles. Strong muscles help to reduce your risk of injury, including falls. Strong muscles mean a strong heart, in turn reducing your risk of heart disease, heart attack or stroke.

Regardless of age and whether or not you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, regular strength training is beneficial to everyone. Staying strong will help you to live a long and healthy life. By incorporating regular strength training into your exercise routine, you can reduce the risk of osteoporosis, injury, falls, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke while increasing your strength, fitness, and health. Visit your doctor and local gym to find out how you can live longer and stronger today.

 

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