Don't be a Dummy, Grab the Dumbbells

Postmenopausal women with osteoporosis benefit from resistance weight training

(RxWiki News) For postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, the road to better bone density is paved with strength-training equipment. Get off the couch and begin strength training!

Prolonged inactivity contributes to bone density loss, but this loss can be reduced by loading up on many types of weight-bearing, resistance training.

"Strength training benefits everyone, especially older women."

Tracey Howe, lead study author and professor of rehabilitation services at the Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland, reports that most people don't really understand bone loss. While some loss is inevitable as a result of aging, exercise appears to slow it down.

Physical activity needs to be part of a regular routine because when exercise stops, bone density loss will start up again at the same rate as before.

C. David Geier, Jr., M.D., an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery and director of the sports medicine program at the Medical University of South Carolina, adds that  resistance exercise is essential to preventing and limiting the progression of osteoporosis in people as they age.

Dr. Geier also encourages people to understand that the key to osteoporosis and exercise is prevention of the disease. Once a hip fracture occurs in a patient, it greatly impacts quality of life and can reduce life expectancy. Beginning weight training before osteoporosis.

Previously, Howe reviewed 43 studies that analyzed the effect of exercise programs on the bone mass density (BMD) of 4,320 postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. This current review update considers data from 27 additional studies.

After these additional studies were added, Howe still found resistance exercise to be an effective and safe way to prevent bone loss in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. Generally, all types of regular, weight-bearing exercise programs such as tai chi, walking, aerobics and strength training help BMD and reduced the risk of fracture in postmenopausal women.

Women who exercised regularly lost an average of 1 percent less bone than non-exercisers. Women who exercised were not more likely to sustain injuries or falls while exercising, the authors report. Exercise reduced the chances of having a fracture. Of the women who didn't exercise, 11 percent experienced fractures while only 7 percent of exercises experienced broken bones.

Howe found the best regimens for enhancing BMD were cross-training programs. Combining a primary exercise with one additional weight-bearing activitiy such as running, dancing or progressive strength training, resulted in a 3 percent smaller reduction in spinal BMD.

The review was published by The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research.

Review Date: 
July 13, 2011