Exercise is one of the most important things you can do to look after your health and keep yourself fit. One of the many advantages of regular exercise is increased physical strength. Whereas everyone knows that exercise makes your muscles stronger- did you know that it also strengthens your bones?
Why is bone strength important?
Bone strength is something many of us take for granted- but we should all be aware of how to keep our bones strong and avoid losing bone mineral density. It’s not just a concern for older people either- natural bone loss (or resorption) actually begins at age 35.1
Bone is a living tissue which is constantly breaking down and building new tissue in its place- a process known as ‘remodelling’. In older people or people with sedentary lifestyles, bone deposition- or the building of new bone tissue- doesn’t happen as quickly leading to loss of bone mineral density.
To build stronger bones over time, and avoid losing bonemineral density, you need to help along the process of remodelling. This is where resistance training comes in.
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How does resistance training help strengthen bones?
People tend to associate resistance training- also called weight training- with muscle gyms and bodybuilding, but in reality, it’s for everyone. You don’t even need a gym, as many resistance exercises such as push-ups and lunges can be done at home.
Extensive research has shown a strong positive connection between resistance training and bone strength. 2 Exercise of this type helps strengthen bones by promoting their growth and actually encouraging the remodelling process. This happens as a result of stress being put on the bones, thus triggering the development of bone-regenerating cells called osteoblasts. These osteoblasts increase bone density- think of it as your bones ‘toughening up’ as you put more and more stress on them. Over time, this makes the skeleton grow stronger and prevents loss of bone density, which leads to osteoporosis (weakened bones) and an increased risk of fractures.
To trigger osteoblasts, you must put sufficient stress on the bones, which is why you need to look past light cardio to really get the bone-building benefits of exercise. Make sure the exercise is weight-bearing, with your feet or hands fixed to the floor or a machine and taking pressure. This is known as ‘loading’ and will feel difficult because you’re putting stress on your bones and muscles. This is also what helps muscles grow, which is why resistance training is recommended for all-round strength.
Bone remodelling works best in healthy individuals alongside a diet rich in calcium and protein. Ensure you’re getting these from bio-available wholefood sources. Examples include chicken, cheese, milk, dried fruit, and green vegetables such as kale.
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Shop Sports Nutrition Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.