A study in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research (Kerr, D., Ackland, T., Maslen, B., Morton, A., & Prince, R. (1 January 2001) titled Resistance Training over 2 years increases bone mass in calcium-replete postmenopausal women reported the results for 126 postmenopausal women over 2 years whose calcium intake met the current standard: one group did resistance training with increasing load, the second group did exercise for cardiovascular fitness (the exercises were similar in duration to the first group, but did not involve increasing load significantly and added cycling) and the third group made no change.
The results demonstrated that strength training with increasing load can arrest bone loss or increase bone density at the hip, while cardiovascular exercise by itself does not improve bone density. One of the key components is increasing stress on the bones by increasing resistance (the weight lifted).
What does that mean? Lift heavier weights in a safe systematic progression. The researchers recommend having a physical therapist guide you as you build strength to minimize the risk of injury. The challenge for physical therapists is that patients often have other conditions that limit resistance training such as problems with tendons or osteoarthritis. Such patients can be injured if they are not guided by a carefully crafted program. As you improve strength you should see increases in bone density over a 1 to 2 year period.
For any exercise program, intensity is key, so don’t get complacent. Do not abandon cardiovascular exercise to take up resistance training. Keep up your elliptical or bike program. Continue your running. But develop a program that builds bone density, too. For maximum benefit all fitness programs should include both a strengthening and cardiovascular component for total body wellness.
The researchers noted that their findings have led to other studies which confirm the benefits of strength training on bone health for both pre- and post-menopausal women. They conclude: “Strength training can be recommended as an adjunct lifestyle approach to osteoporosis prevention or in combination with other treatments in postmenopausal women.”
Apex Orthopedic Rehabilitation in Wyckoff, NJ provides orthopedic and sports physical therapy services for the greater Ridgewood, Wyckoff, and Bergen County region. This blog is intended for informational purposes only and should not be used for diagnostic or prescriptive purposes. The views expressed here are the author’s views and should be taken as suggestions. Always consult your doctor or healthcare practitioner before engaging in a physical therapy or rehabilitative program.