Most people prefer to perform exercises like jogging or running, which are weight-bearing activities. However, such exercises are not very effective in reversing or stopping bone loss that comes with the aging process. To reverse or stop bone loss, it is best to increase both muscle tone and strength.
When you perform muscle building exercises, you stimulate the release of hormones that would increase the size and strength of your muscles. Synergistically, these same hormones increase bone mass and density. So if you want to build both muscles and bone, you need to perform exercises that would require significant effort on your part.
Building muscles is not restricted to younger-aged individuals. In fact, research studies have conclusively demonstrated that even the elderly – particularly those in their 90s – are still capable of building muscle mass after embarking on regular strength training programs 3 times a week for 6 months. While certainly they did not look like the bulky “muscle heads”, there is no doubt that their bodies are a lot stronger when compared to others in their age group.
Myths and Truths about Weight Training
There are two myths about weight training that continue to persist even up to the present time among weightlifters and bodybuilders.
Myth: Weight training in women will lead to the development of huge and bulky muscles like men.
Truth: Because of genetics, average women are not capable of developing large, bulky muscles that you find in men. Even mesomorphic women (those who have athletic builds) will not develop a masculine physique, but they can tone down their routines so that muscle bulk is lessened. In women aged 35 years and above, building muscle mass may prove challenging. Instead of experiencing muscle growth, weight training will cause the process of muscle atrophy (wasting or loss of muscle) to stop.
Myth: Heavy weight lifting is a dangerous endeavor for the elderly.
Truth: All HEALTHY individuals stand to benefit from a good weight training regimen regardless of age. As long as the weight training program is under strict supervision, there is no fear of injuries, even in the elderly. The word “heavy” has different meanings to younger individuals and in older-aged persons. For the young, a heavy weight can be 30 pounds. On the other hand, a mere 3 pounds can already be considered heavy by the elderly. Usually, young bodybuilders increase the weights they lift by 5 or 10 pound increments. In comparison, elderly muscle builders would increase their weights by only a few ounces or pounds. Hence, the term “heavy” should be used to define weights that are challenging to the individual bodybuilder.
Principles of Muscle Building
The best muscle building program is called incremental resistance training. “Incremental” refers to the gradual increase in weight, intensity and/or duration of an exercise. “Resistance” refers to the weight or force that your muscles are challenged with. For resistance to be most effective, you need to be able to measure the amount of weight or force that you will impose upon your muscles. “Training” obviously refers to an exercise regimen that you perform regularly and consistently.
If you take all three words together, incremental resistance training is a type of exercise program wherein your muscles are challenged by a force or weight that is steadily increased. While you can increase the duration of aerobic exercises like walking, running, swimming or dancing, you only impose moderate force upon the muscles, so that very little muscle growth is attained. In comparison, if you increase the weights that you lift, you will be able to induce both muscle growth and an increase in bone density.
Simply put, aerobics help to improve the functioning of the heart and lungs for better stamina and endurance. In contrast, it is with weight training that you build up muscle size and strength as well as bone density.
Effective Exercises for Maintaining Bone Density and Reversing and Preventing Bone Loss
Any individual who wants to prevent bone loss should best start with a complete body weight training program. Such a program utilizes the principles in muscle building, particularly the incremental increase of resistance in the form of barbells and dumbbells, bands, water resistance, weight-loaded gym equipment, and body positioning for increasing load.
Rather than define what “body positioning for increasing load” is, let us give you a concrete example. Let us say you are going to do a push-up. You can start by doing a push-up by standing in front of a wall. Placing your hands on the wall, you start pushing your body on and off at an angle. For the next exercise, you are on your knees while pushing your body off a chair. You then follow this with the standard push-up (on the floor with your legs straight behind you). Lastly, you do a push-up from the floor while your knees are bent. As you can see, you steadily increase your load on your body by simply changing your position every time you do the push-up.
Effort is Best
No exercise regimen would produce the desired results if you don’t put significant effort into the endeavor. If you are afraid of getting injured, don’t worry. As long as you follow the instructions of your trainer or in the manuals, CDs, or DVDs of the various exercise programs that are available, you don’t have to worry about straining yourself too hard or injuring yourself during the last reps of your regimen.
It is important to emphasize that it is only through effort that you will be able to increase your bone density.
Drugs for Osteoporosis
While there are a number of drugs that are available in drugstores that are being used to treat osteoporosis, there have not been sufficient scientific trials done on their efficiency. In fact, studies that have been published in medical journals have shown that some of these drugs may actually be worsening bone loss instead of preventing it. Plus, these same medications are producing a number of dangerous side effects, which may even lead to death.
It is the strong recommendation of physicians that osteoporosis be treated simply with a high calcium diet and/or daily intake of absorbable calcium supplements, Vitamin D3 supplementation, and the earlier mentioned incremental resistance training instead of taking osteoporosis medications.
If you want to prevent the bone-depleting effects of osteoporosis and osteopenia on your body, make sure that you incorporate incremental resistance training in your healthy lifestyle today.