Strength Training Builds More Than Muscles

Most people know the many benefits of strength training – increased muscle mass, increased strength and increased metabolism to name a few.  However, for people over 50, resistance training is hugely beneficial to slowing bone density loss among other things.

If you are a post menopausal woman, chances are yoiu have had a bone density test.  What is a bone density test?  A bone density test, DEXA, measures the mineral content of the bones in certain areas of the skeleton. It’s a way to measure bone loss as you age. Healthcare providers sometimes call these tests bone densitometry tests, or DXA.  Another test is called a DEXA scan.  A DEXA scan is a type of medical imaging test. It uses very low levels of x-rays to measure how dense your bones are. DEXA stands for “dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry.”

Medical experts consider DEXA scans to be the most useful, easy, and inexpensive test for helping to diagnose osteoporosis. The test is quick and painless.

Once you have your results, there are a few different avenues to take.  

There are several medications from the biphosphate family on the market right now, but most have adverse side effects which keep men and women from wanting to take them.  There are a few bone building medications being prescribed as well.If you have severe osteoporosis or if the more common treatments for osteoporosis don’t work well enough, your doctor might suggest trying:

  • Teriparatide (Bonsity, Forteo). This powerful drug is similar to parathyroid hormone and stimulates new bone growth. It’s given by daily injection under the skin for up to two years.
  • Abaloparatide (Tymlos) is another drug similar to parathyroid hormone. This drug can be taken for only two years.
  • Romosozumab (Evenity). This is the newest bone-building medication to treat osteoporosis. It is given as an injection every month at your doctor’s office and is limited to one year of treatment.

Estrogen, especially when started soon after menopause, can help maintain bone density. However, estrogen therapy can increase the risk of breast cancer and blood clots, which can cause strokes. Therefore, estrogen is typically used for bone health in younger women or in women whose menopausal symptoms also require treatment.

Preventative care such as resistance training  has been shown to prevent bone mass loss or slow it down if there is already a diagnosis in place. As stated by the NIA (National Institute of Arthritis), “Like muscle, bone is living tissue that responds to exercise by becoming stronger. Young women and men who exercise regularly generally achieve greater peak bone mass (maximum bone density and strength) than those who do not. For most people, bone mass peaks during the third decade of life. After that time, we can begin to lose bone. Women and men older than age 20 can help prevent bone loss with regular exercise. Exercising can also help us maintain muscle strength, coordination, and balance, which in turn helps to prevent falls and related fractures. This is especially important for older adults and people who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis.”

Weight-bearing and resistance exercises are the best for your bones. Weight-bearing exercises force you to work against gravity. They include walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, playing tennis, and dancing. Resistance exercises – such as lifting weights – can also strengthen bones. Other exercises such as swimming and bicycling are great cardiovascular exercises, but they are not the best way to strengthen your bones.  Any exercise which you add extra resistance to the muscles and bones will force those tissues to work against gravity and the added weight to work harder and grow new tissue.

The first step before beginning an exercise program is making sure you are healthy enough for the activity.  Checking with your doctor and getting clearance for the exercises you want to try is very important.  Once you’re cleared, hiring a personal trainer for guidance is an excellent idea.  The trainer can customize a program for you to fit your needs and ability level.  Get started today!  Preventative health will tack on years and improve the quality of your life!


Laura Kness-Torrez