Almost everyone has heard about the incredible benefits of strength training. For instance, many people know that it helps you burn calories, lose weight, build muscle, add strength and improves your heart health and overall quality of life. But there also is another valuable, commonly overlooked benefit of strength training—it helps improve our bone health and thus fights osteoporosis.
Strength Training Builds Bones
Improving bone strength is important to all of us as we age—especially women. Research shows that living a constantly sedentary lifestyle causes us to lose bone mass. One of the best ways to increase your activity level and bone mass is strength training, and a little goes a long way! In 2005, researchers outlined the importance of strength training in the book “Prescription Alternatives” by saying, “In a recent study on bone density and exercise, older women who did high-intensity weight training two days per week for a year were able to increase their bone density by 1 percent, while a control group of women who did not exercise had a bone density decrease of 1.8 to 2.5 percent.”
That’s a 3.5 percent difference in bone density over a year—all simply due to picking up the weights two times a week. Just for the sake of comparison with all other factors aside, if you hypothetically didn’t strength train for five years (which is a reality as we get older) that could be a 12.5 percent decrease in bone density compared to a 5 percent improvement via strength training or a 17.5 percent difference. See how it can add up?
Improving Bone Health
Weight bearing activities like hiking and strength training help improve our bone mass because they put an impact on our bones. This causes our bones to reinforce themselves—making them stronger. A great way to start training is to simply start with 2–3 full-body workout sessions a week of 3 sets for 8–10 controlled repetitions (make sure you are cleared by your physician). This can include: supported bodyweight squats, bicep curl into tricep extensions and front presses.
Supported Bodyweight Squat
Start by holding onto a sturdy chair or wall for balance and to reduce the difficulty. With your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart, lean back as if sitting in a chair. Lower yourself down until you are almost in a seated position before returning to the starting position. Repeat for 3 sets of 8–10 controlled repetitions.
Bicep curl into tricep extension
Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your dumbbells at your side. Perform a bicep curl making sure to concentrate on the bicep contraction, and then bring the weights together behind your head in one fluid motion. Then perform a normal tricep extension. Make sure to keep the weights together and your elbows in by your head during the tricep extension. Repeat for 3 sets of 8–10 controlled repetitions.
Standing with a sturdy base beneath you, start by having your dumbbells held together near your chest. Using your front deltoids raise the weights straight up until your arms are extended and then return to the starting position. Repeat for 3 sets of 8–10 controlled repetitions.