by Ryan Day, Personal Trainer, November 16, 2016
When you think about the benefits of exercise what typically come to mind? Weight loss, strength, heart health so on and so forth, right? While these are all great, there are other benefits that are often overlooked. For example, bone health. What if I told you in order to have strong bones it takes a bit more than the glass of milk mom requires at dinner?
While mom is not wrong, proper nutrition plays a big role in bone health. The addition of physical activity into our daily lives may be the key in growing up big and strong. Our bones are constantly going through modifications; bone is being broken down and new bone is being formed. In order for new bone to be synthesized we need to apply a stimulus greater than the bone is accustomed to. If we fail to do so, bone continues to be broken down without new bone being formed. Over time the bones decrease in density, become weak, and may even increase the risk of osteoporosis.
This is where the benefits of a structured resistance training program occur. The stimulus we referred to earlier is an external load. This can be applied using our own body weight, or weights we find in the gym. By performing exercises under load, the bones are stressed therefore stimulating new bone formation.
It is important to note that we do have a threshold of bone mineral density. During our 20’s the body reaches a point it is no longer able to synthesize new bone, this is our peak bone mass. Once we have reached this point, we can only maintain or slow the degeneration of bone mass. This is why it is important to begin training early so we have time to increase bone mass to a significant level.
If you are already past this point do not begin to think physical activity is now worthless to you. Engaging in regular physical activity can help you to maintain or slow the loss of bone mineral density. At the same time you will see improvements in muscular strength and balance which are key elements in reducing the risk of falls.
The main take home message here is no matter your age physical activity can have a positive effect on your bone health. Build up your bone mineral density as much as possible before you’re no longer able to. Once you have reached your peak, keep exercising and slow the process, you’ll be happy you did.
Kohrt WM, Bloomfield SA, Little KD, Nelson ME, Yingling VR, American College of Sports Medicine. American College of Sports Medicine position stand: physical activity and bone health. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004;36(11): 1985-96.