What we do in our younger years has a huge impact on our risk for bone disease. Many of us will build bone especially well into our early twenties. After our young adult life, we’re primarily holding on to the stores we have already built. That’s not to say we can’t build bone in later years it’s just much more difficult. Those that choose to do strength training in their youth or as young adults can dramatically impact the level of bone mass that they preserve over the course of their life.
Even if you’re in your fifties or sixties, starting a strength-training program can be tremendous for maintaining and improving your bone health!
Although there are factors influencing our bone density that’s out of our control, most factors are up to us. Weight bearing exercise and diet (Stay tuned for next blog on nutrition for bones) are the two most powerful tools we have in our arsenal.
It may take years to improve your bone density but that’s not necessarily the case for improving bone strength! With proper weight training, you can improve the strength of your bones in a much shorter amount of time. The way in which bone tissue is laid can become stronger even before bone density is affected. After seeing numerous clients with some level of bone disease (Osteopenia or Osteoporosis) those that have maintained or improved their bone density have done so by using weights many people would consider too heavy.
Of course, we must progress in a safe manner but heavy weight training is not just for athletes or bodybuilders. Those five pound weights you see so many people using in gyms and exercise classes might be a good starting point but won’t do the trick long term. You need to work your way up to weights heavy enough to be challenging with few repetitions.
The adage, “the way you train, is the way you gain” rings true here. Your bones will get stronger in the ways that you stress them so building up to heavier weights and using multiple planes of motion will have the most significant impact.
Here are some take home points for improving your bone strength:
- Heavy weights will not hurt you, poor form and poor preparation will.
- Take time to build up the level of resistance you use eventually getting to weights that are challenging in the lower repetition range.
- Work your body in multiple planes of motion.
- It can take years to improve bone density but that doesn’t mean bones can’t get stronger in the meantime