Most exercisers tend to concentrate on weight bearing activities to build up muscle. However, these activities are insufficient to reverse, stop or prevent the bone loss that occurs with osteoporosis. If you are going to improve the strength and tone of your muscles, it is best to perform activities that will synergistically build up bone as well.
The reason for this is that if you increase the size and strength of your muscle, your body also causes an increase in the density of the bone underneath. Hormones that are released during muscle building also promote an increase in bone mass.
All individuals who are in good health are capable of building muscles, regardless of their age. Research has demonstrated that even elderly people in their 90s can build up muscle mass if they pursue a regular strength training program 3 times a week for 6 months. While they are certainly not capable of building up the bulky muscle mass such as in their younger counterparts, research has shown that they have doubled in muscle strength.
Myths & Facts About Weight Training
There are many myths surrounding weight training. Let us take a look at two particular myths that continue to persist up to the present despite scientific evidence to the contrary.
The first myth is that women are incapable of building huge, bulked up muscles (like those in men) with weight training. The truth is that, because of genetics, average women cannot build up muscles that are as huge as their male counterparts. Even mesomorphs – women who can develop their muscles – only need to perform specific regimens in order for them not to build up large muscles. Muscle building becomes even more challenging for women aged 35 and above. This is because, instead of muscle growth occurring, the muscles gradually stop atrophying with every year that passes by.
The second myth is that heavy weight lifting is a dangerous endeavor for the elderly. Nothing can be further than the truth. As was mentioned earlier, all individuals – regardless of age – can reap numerous benefits from weight training. In the case of the elderly, they just need a training regimen that is supervised by a fitness trainer, so that there are lesser risks for injuries. Also, the term “heavy” differs between younger aged and older aged individuals. For example, a young person may consider 30 pounds to be heavy while in an elderly individual “heavy” could mean just 3 pounds. So, while you increase the weights lifted by a younger person by increments of 5 to 10 pounds, incremental increase of weights in the elderly can mean only a few ounces or pounds. You only use the adjective “heavy” to refer to weights that are challenging for a person to lift.
Basic Principles of Muscle Building
Any bodybuilder and physical fitness trainer will tell you that the best way to increase muscle mass is through incremental resistance training. If you break down these words, “incremental” would refer to the gradual increase in weight (also referred to as intensity) and duration of an exercise, “resistance” would mean a measurable weight that the muscle is made to work against, and “training” is an exercise program that is performed regularly and consistently.
Incremental resistance training is therefore defined as a type of regular and consistent exercise program that has an individual working against a weight that is increased by increments. This is very different from cardiovascular exercises like aerobics, walking, jogging, running, dancing and swimming. While you are capable of increasing the duration of these exercises, they are only moderate in intensity (meaning that your muscles are not working against a measured weight). In contrast, you can increase both the intensity and the duration in weight lifting. Intensity especially promotes an increase in both muscle and bone mass.
To put this in simpler terms that are easier to understand, it is weight lifting that builds up muscle strength and bone size and density while cardio exercises build up the lungs, stamina and endurance.
Preventing, Maintaining and Reversing Bone Loss through Incremental Resistance Training
The best type of training program for the prevention of osteoporosis is incremental resistance training in the form of a total body weight training program. This involves using weights that can be increased by measurable increments, such as dumbbells, barbells, bands water resistance, weight loaded machines, and through proper body positioning.
Body positioning has been found to also produce gradual increases in resistance. Let us take a look at the push-up as an example. The easiest form of the push-up is by standing against the wall and pushing your body up and down from the wall with your hands. You increase your difficulty when you perform a push-up from your knees with your hands pushing your body up and down from a chair. The intensity is again increased when you do the traditional push-up – with you lying face down on the floor and your legs straight behind you – because you are lifting your body against gravity. Finally, the load you will be lifting is greatest when you do a push-up with your knees bent.
Application of Effort
It is not possible to build bone mass without the application of considerable effort to one’s exercises and training regimen. If you are afraid of straining yourself or getting injured during the last few repetitions, you don’t need to worry especially if you are strictly following the instructions given to you by a trainer or in a fitness manual or video.
It is only through considerable effort that you will be able to increase bone density.
Medical Treatments for Osteoporosis
While there are many drugs that purportedly treat osteoporosis, many medical journals have shown that a lot of these drugs may not be treating the disease, but may actually make it worse. Some can even cause dangerous side effects, including death.
Almost all physicians and physiotherapists agree that preventing osteoporosis can be achieved through daily intake of a high calcium diet, absorbable calcium supplements, Vitamin D3, and incremental resistance training.
If you want to prevent the development of osteopenia and osteoporosis, put a lot of effort into your incremental resistance training.