Osteoporosis is a condition that requires management strategies aimed at improving bone density while trying to reduce the breakdown of bone. While most people think about bones as dead tissues, they are extremely metabolically active and are constantly changing and remodelling according to the stresses we place on them. If you want to strengthen your bones through exercise, there are some slight differences in the exercises you choose and the structure of the program.
It seems well known that exercises that involve “weight bearing” are good for stimulating bone activity and thus have an impact on bone health. However people make the assumption that because walking would be classified as “weight bearing” that this is sufficient. Research indicates that walking alone is not enough to produce positive changes in bone strength. This is most likely due to the fact that walking is a normal daily activity for most people that we have become very used to. As a result, our bones have adapted to the stress and don’t have any great need for further change.
The most effective exercises to improve bone density and strength are resistance exercises – especially those that involve weight bearing such as squats and step-ups. In addition to the impact, when we perform resistance exercises the muscles create a pulling force on the bone. This force causes the body to adapt by remodelling the bone in the area to ensure that it is strong enough to withstand future force. Of course, part of the science of writing an effective exercise program involves finding the “sweet spot” where we have enough of the right force to produce the desired change, without increasing the risk of injury.
One of the biggest mistakes that many people make when exercising with the goal of improving their bone health is that they do not change their exercises often enough. While some consistency is important for adaptation to occur, placing new and different stresses on the bones is an important part of increasing their overall strength and density. You should aim to change up your resistance exercises every 8-10 weeks. This allows you to recruit different muscles and place different forces on the body leading to maximum benefits.
Bones of steel are within reach!