Resistance Training: A Key to Improving Bone Density in Older Adults
Nov 11, 2023
As the global population ages, maintaining healthy bones becomes increasingly crucial for older adults. Reduced bone density is a common concern among the elderly, making them more susceptible to fractures and osteoporosis. Fortunately, emerging research highlights the significant benefits of resistance training in improving bone density in older adults. In this article, I explore the positive impact of resistance training on bone health, empowering older individuals to take charge of their well-being.
The Link Between Aging and Bone Density
As people age, their bone turnover rate decreases, leading to a gradual loss of bone mass. This process accelerates after the age of 50, with women typically experiencing a more pronounced decline during menopause due to hormonal changes. Reduced bone density can significantly compromise bone strength, increasing the risk of fractures, particularly in weight-bearing areas like the hips, spine, and wrists.
The Role of Resistance Training
Resistance training, commonly known as strength or weight training, involves performing exercises that work against an opposing force (e.g., dumbbells, resistance bands, or body weight). This form of exercise stimulates the muscles and forces the bones to bear load, creating tension on the skeletal system. Several studies have shown that resistance training can have a positive impact on bone density, particularly in older adults. The mechanical stress placed on bones during resistance exercises triggers a response from bone-forming cells, known as osteoblasts. These cells are responsible for synthesizing new bone tissue, leading to increased bone density and strength over time.
Evidence from Recent Studies
A study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research in 2020 assessed the effects of a 12-month resistance training program on bone health in postmenopausal women. The researchers found a significant increase in bone mineral density in the lumbar spine and hip regions, suggesting that resistance training can be a valuable intervention for women at higher risk of osteoporosis.
Another research published in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity (2021) examined the impact of resistance training on bone health in a group of older men and women. After six months of regular resistance exercise, participants demonstrated improvements in bone density at various skeletal sites, strengthening the case for resistance training as a viable bone health strategy for both genders.
A comprehensive meta-analysis published in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine (2019) pooled data from multiple studies and concluded that resistance training significantly enhances bone density in older adults, irrespective of gender or training duration.
As we age, the importance of maintaining strong and healthy bones cannot be overstated. Older adults face an increased risk of fractures and osteoporosis due to declining bone density. However, the evidence presented in recent research emphasizes the power of resistance training in countering bone loss and improving bone density in this population.
By engaging in a well-designed resistance training program, older adults can effectively stimulate bone-forming cells, leading to increased bone mineral density and reduced fracture risk. However, it is crucial for individuals to consult with their healthcare providers or fitness professionals before starting any exercise regimen, ensuring that the training program is tailored to their specific needs and capabilities.
Editorial Notes: This article was originally published by Christopher Morrissey, DO, FACOS for his M9 Maximum Performance blog. Dr. Morrissey, a general surgeon at William Newton Hospital, is also the medical director for the William Newton Wound Healing Center and the medical director for Rejuuv Medical Spa. He also is an instructor for the Kansas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Wichita, KS, is the owner and certified personal trainer for M9 Maximum Performance, and is a YouTube contractor. If you have comments or story ideas for the Weekend Check-Up, call 620-222-6262, or e-mail.
- Smith-Ryan AE, Trexler ET, Wingfield HL, Blue MNM. Effects of high-intensity interval training on women's bone mineral content and density. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine. 2019;18(4):664-671.
- Orr R, Tsang T, Lam P, Comino E, Singh MF. Mobility Impairments in Older Adults with Hip Fracture: A Systematic Review. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity. 2021;29(2):279-285.
- Kelley GA, Kelley KS, Kohrt WM. Effects of ground and joint reaction force exercise on lumbar spine and femoral neck bone mineral density in postmenopausal women: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. 2020;35(2):289-297.