As we get older, we naturally lose bone density, which can lead to osteoporosis, a disease that leaves bones porous and susceptible to fractures.
Osteoporosis is more common in women, especially after menopause and the loss of bone density-protecting estrogen. In addition to making bones break easily and heal more slowly than usual, osteoporosis can also lead to curvature of the spine as the vertebrae collapse.
A strength training program will increase bone density or bone mineral density at any age, so if you’d like to stay strong and healthy well into your retirement years, start a weight lifting program today.
Below are some basic recommendations, tips and ways strength training can help women of all ages build stronger bones:
Stand Up for Yourself
Do free weight exercises while standing, if at all possible. This increases the weight placed on the lower body, which can help build bones and muscles, as well as building core strength and improving balance.
Work Out Freely
Use 2-5 pound free weights for the arms if you aren’t yet strong enough to use the weight lifting machines at the gym for your upper body. Even light, handheld weights will create resistance and strengthen bones.
She’s Got Legs
If you have more lower body strength than upper body strength, use what you’ve got and focus on the large muscle groups of the legs. Not only will this increase leg bone density, but building muscle speeds up metabolism, which is a good thing at any age.
Keep Moving On Up
As you build up your muscle and the exercises become easy, move up to a heavier dumbbell or increase the weight on your machines. Generally, if you can do 15 repetitions of the exercise and you’re not feeling any strain, it’s time to challenge yourself with more weight.
Create Resistance at Home
You can easily create resistance and increase bone density at home by adding weights to ankles and arms while doing leg exercises such as lunges, squats, bench-steps and calf raises. Once again, if it starts to get easy, you’re no longer making progress, so increase the amount of weight you’re lifting.
Be Gentle with Yourself
If you already have low bone density, be cautious and start slowly. You can increase your bone mass with strength training, but the goal is to do so gently and avoid injury. Also, skip exercises that put pressure on or twist your spine, as the back is a weak spot for those with low bone mass. Keep your weight lifting focus on the arms and legs.
Don’t Discount Yoga and Swimming
Don’t forget that yoga is a mild exercise you can do to increase muscle flexibility, and that swimming is also recommended for easy-on-the-bones exercise. These workouts can increase your fitness level, giving your body the muscles it needs for protection during strength training.
Small Commitment Equals Big Payoff
Most experts believe that only 15-30 minutes of weight lifting-type strength training, 2-3 times a week can dramatically increase bone density.
Weightlifting Trumps Aerobics
Aerobic exercise has many health benefits, but strength-bearing exercises have been shown to add bone mineral density in a much more efficient manner than aerobic exercise. Many studies have been done, with strength training consistently coming in at the top of the list of exercises for building stronger bones.
Build Better Balance
In addition to strengthening bones, weight-bearing exercises can preserve your muscle mass, build up your core and improve your balance, preventing falls that can be devastating for those with reduced bone density.
Most people lose one percent of their bone mineral density every year. The good news is that strength training can help build bone density to prevent debilitating bone disease, and it’s never too late to start reaping the bone-strengthening benefits.
No matter what your age or fitness level, you can start a strength training program today to keep your bones healthy and strong for the rest of your life.
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