Belinda Beck, director at The Bone Clinic, looks at the best exercise for strong bones.
For a long time, we’ve known that exercise benefits our bones. The exercise should start from an early age, when bones are first developing and continue for our entire lives, into our senior years.
For some time, the recommended exercise prescribed to treat osteoporosis was low intensity activities and training in balance and functional strength to reduce falls. This is now set to change, with an Australian research group leading the way towards a new approach to exercise and osteoporosis.
A research project is currently in progress at Griffith University on the Gold Coast, testing the effect of high intensity Progressive Resistance Training on bones of people with low bone mass and osteoporosis. This style of training is the complete opposite of the low-medium intensity workouts currently recommended for osteoporosis patients, and was first trialed by a Brisbane-based competitive weightlifter and personal trainer Lisa Weis.
“If you want to prevent poor bone health in old age, you need to add high intensity training to your weekly exercise regime – and not just in your later years.”
The research outcomes will form the basis of the ‘Onero’ exercise program offered at The Bone Clinic. Findings to date indicate positive effects with just two 30-minute sessions per week, including greater improvements in bone and muscle than a low intensity exercise program, reductions in spine curvature and gains in height due to improved posture.
So what does this mean for you? If you want to prevent poor bone health in old age, you need to add high intensity training to your weekly exercise regime – and not just in your later years. Bone degeneration is not something that happens overnight and by keeping up the right sort of exercise, you can help guard against bone issues in the future.
What’s the best exercise for bone health?
Look for exercise options that:
- Involve standing on two feet. Bones need to feel the effects of gravity, and you can only do that when standing. For example, standing and using free weights is better than sitting or lying on a machine.
- Include progressive resistance training. This means adding weight when you can easily lift a weight 10 times in a row – even if it’s just 0.5 kg.
- Provide supervision and guidance. High-resistance training involves lifting heavy weights to increase the intensity level of the workout, which can raise the risk of injury, particularly for those who already have osteoporosis Always engage a qualified strength coach who has experience in high-resistance training.
Within 10 years, it is estimated that 6.2 million Australians will suffer from osteoporosis or osteopenia, and one fracture will occur every 2.9 minutes – so this is not an issue that we can ignore.