Health and Fitness: Lifting weights increases bone health |

Health and Fitness: Lifting weights increases bone health

Kyler Crouse
Special to the Tribune

Slips and falls are common with the ice and outdoor activities Lake Tahoe residents are accustomed to. With that comes the unfortunate bumps, bruises, and in some cases broken bones. While it may be impossible to completely prevent a fall, it may be possible to prevent a broken bone when landing. According to a 2004 report by the Office of the Surgeon General, 10 million people have osteoporosis and another 33.6 million have osteopenia or low bone mass, which is the beginning stages of osteoporosis. This leads to over 1.5 million osteoporotic fractures annually. In the same report the Surgeon General, states that, “caring for these fractures is expensive. Studies show that annual direct care expenditures for osteoporotic fractures range from $12 to $18 billion per year in 2002 dollars. Indirect costs (e.g., lost productivity) likely add billions of dollars to this figure. These costs could double or triple in the coming decades”.

Many heath care professionals recommend weight bearing activates to help prevent the decline of bone quality. The National Osteoporosis Foundation breaks weight bearing activities into three subgroups: high-impact (jumping, gymnastics, tennis, etc.), low impact (elliptical machine, walking, cross-country skiing, etc.) and muscle-strengthening (weight training, Pilates, yoga, etc.). Bone is similar to muscle in that it can increase in size and quality if the proper stress is applied. The term, minimal essential strain refers to the stimulus needed to initiate new bone growth. Depending on the individual, anything from heavy barbell squats to simply standing up from a chair will be enough to encourage bone growth in younger individuals and help prevent the decline of bone mass and bone mineral density in older individuals. Calcium and Vitamin D and also critical to bone health. Calcium is a mineral needed by the body for healthy bones, teeth, and proper function of the heart, muscles and nerves. The body cannot produce calcium it must be absorbed through food. Vitamin D is important for good bone health because it aids in the absorption and utilization of calcium.

Women are more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. According to the same Surgeon General Report, roughly 40 percent of Caucasian women 50 or older in America will experience a hip, spine or wrist fracture. While peak bone mass in acquired by most before age 29, weight-bearing activities are important to slow the decline of bone mass that appears to happen as we age. This was illustrated in a recent case study involving two elite female power lifters. Two women, ages 48 and 54, whom had engaged in high intensity strength training for more than 30 years were examined. The researchers examined for bone mass and bone mineral content. The two women not only had good scores compared to other women their age, they had better bone mineral content and bone mass than the average 20-to 29-year-old woman.

By 2020, 50 percent of Americans older than 50 will have, or be at high risk of developing osteoporosis. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends high impact weight-bearing activities, like basketball, hiking, soccer and running, as the best exercises for keeping bones strong. However, high impact weight bearing activities can be difficult for many individuals to perform. The results of the study published in the march 2012 edition of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research involving the two women shows that with proper loading, muscle-strengthening activities may work just as well. Try several different weight bearing activities and see which one you like and tolerate the best, and remember the most important part is it have fun while doing it.

– Kyler Crouse, BS, CSCS, FMS is a personal fitness coach at Sierra Athletic Club. Please visit for more information.

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