No one wants a big beautiful home that has the structural integrity of a sandcastle, right? Unfortunately, the reality is that your bone density decreases by 1% each year after you turn 40. The good news is that this doesn’t have to happen! Strength training is a key solution to keeping your frame strong.
Over 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, and unknown tens of millions more are susceptible to the condition. While this statistic is striking, the real problem is that bone strength loss occurs to almost everyone. As you age, the average person moves less and less, compounding the loss of bone density that already occurs naturally due to aging.
What Happens When Your Bones are Weak?
What do you get with weaker bones? Chronic pain, long-term disabilities, and death; need we say more? We shouldn’t have to, but we’re going to anyways! Here is a short list of what happens when you don’t maintain healthy bones:
- Increases in the likelihood for hip fractures which can result in pain, immobility, and an increased degree of dependence. Almost one in five people die within a year of suffering a hip fracture.
- Increased risk of spinal compression fractures which lead to back pain, height loss, immobility, and deformity.
- Increased risk of fracture (overall) leading to increased medical care/costs, loss of work days/income, and a loss of overall health due to pain and a decreased quality of life.
How Do You Improve Bone Strength and Health?
The loss of bone density and health can be addressed in a variety of ways, including exercise, supplementation, and medication. Each method has its own requirements and side effects, but to me, none have the potential to impact your overall quality life like strength training.
Strength training is not just “exercise.” If you look up the “best exercises for bone density,” you’ll typically find two main groups:
- A bunch of highly repetitive cardio methods like running, jogging, cycling, jump roping, etc. Or,
- Low impact training methods like yoga, dancing, pilates, swimming, etc.
For some reason, most articles consider strength training to be a fringe, sidelined consideration… in my mind, it should be your MAIN CONSIDERATION. No matter what I age I get to, I want to be both healthy and capable. While you could technically be “healthy” in terms of your stats, if that health is conditional upon you sitting still in a comfy chair, I don’t want it.
What is Strength Training?
Strength training is a specific type of exercise that involves maximum physical effort against any given weight. A “weight” doesn’t have to be an external piece of equipment like a dumbbell, barbell, or kettlebell; it could simply be your body’s weight (this is called calisthenics). Here are just a few of the benefits of strength training:
- Builds Muscle Tissue
- Improves Full-Body Coordination
- Improves Force Production
- Strengthens Connective Tissue, Tendons, and Bone Density
- Improves Balance, Power, and Agility
- Improves Aerobic Capacity
What do all of these benefits have to do with bone health? If your entire body is stronger and more coordinated, you’ll be less prone to injury (in addition to improving bone density and strength in general). Win, win!
There are many types of strength training, here are just a few examples of the most functional, full-body techniques I’ve trained and taught myself:
- Ballistic Kettlebell Training
- Barbell Strength Training
- Suspension Training
- Muscular Isolation/Isometric Training
- Power Lifting
- Strongman Training
- Sandbag Training
How you start with each of these strength training methods depends on your current health and fitness level. The best way to begin is to talk to your doctor, then hire a qualified personal trainer to ensure that your routine, weight, and form are correct.