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How exercise can improve bone health

How the right exercise can help strengthen bones.

exercises for older people can improve strength

As children, we’re reminded to drink milk for calcium so that we build strong, healthy bones.

Yet with age, maintaining bone strength becomes even more important, as bones start to lose their density, becoming increasingly fragile.

According to the Medibank Better Health Index, 2.4% of Australians suffer from osteoporosis — 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. Additionally, the condition becomes increasingly prevalent as people age, with over 50’s being the worst affected age-group, at 10%. Given our aging 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 — not just as children, but throughout adult life as well. And while adequate calcium intake and vitamin D are both great ways to strengthen bones and prevent on the onset of osteoporosis, experts suggest exercise also plays a key role in building and maintaining bone density.

Numerous studies have found that 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 had a group of active men and women aged 18 to 23 complete a number of resistance training exercises, including squats and deadlift exercises, over a 24-week period. By the end of the experiment, the men in particular were found to experience a significant increase in the bone mineral density.

Similarly, the Department of Kinesiology at Pennsylvania State University conducted a study to see if low resistance, high repetition training improved bone density the same way high resistance, low repetition training has been found to. After 6 months, the study found bone mineral density had significantly increased in the arms, legs, pelvis and spine in those taking part.

Getting the right balance

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. But just remember, bones need to be challenged in order to gain strength, so exercises should be regular, varied in type, and the intensity should be 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.

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