As children, we drink milk for calcium so that we build strong, healthy bones. Yet with age, maintaining bone strength becomes more important, as bones start to lose their density, becoming increasingly fragile.
2.4% of Australians suffer from osteoporosis (Medibank Better Health Index), a chronic disease which causes severe weakening of the bones. Often people are unaware they have osteoporosis until they suffer a fracture due to bone fragility. The condition becomes more common as people age, with over 50’s being the worst affected age-group. Given our ageing population, addressing our bone health is necessary to prevent problems in the future.
Strengthening bones through exercise
It’s essential that we look after our bones throughout adult life. And while adequate calcium intake and vitamin D are both great, experts suggest exercise also plays a key role in building and maintaining bone density. Numerous studies show resistance training is the most beneficial method of exercise to help strengthen bones. Not only for people living with osteoporosis, but also for those looking to avoid the onset of any bone issues.
A study in 2011 demonstrates that bone mineral density increased in active men and women aged 18 to 23 who complete a number of resistance training exercises, including squats and deadlift exercises. Low resistance, high repetition training also improves bone density in the arms, legs, pelvis and spine after 6 months (Department of Kinesiology Pennsylvania State University).
Getting the right balance of bone training
To help prevent the onset of brittle bones, Osteoporosis Australia recommends a mix of balance and mobility exercises, as well as aerobic activities and progressive resistance training like lifting weights.
We need to challenge bones in order to gain strength.
Exercises should be regular, varied in type, and intensity slowly increased over time.
If you’re living with osteoporosis, always speak to your doctor first before starting a new exercise program. For more details about how exercise can be used to manage osteoporosis, check out Osteoporosis Australia’s exercise factsheet