Lift your bone mass: lifting weights to prevent osteoporosis

As we age our bones become weaker and more susceptible to breaking, and the risk of developing osteoporosis increases significantly. Although three times as many women as men suffer from osteoporosis, around a quarter of a million Australian men have the disease, and it is most common among middle-aged men.

In the US, almost two million men suffer from osteoporosis and 16 million have low bone mass. These figures prompted a study, spearheaded by the University of Missouri, into types of exercise that men could undertake to prevent the disease. The researchers discovered that particular types of weight-lifting and jumping exercises, when undertaken for a minimum of six months, considerably improve bone density in active and healthy middle-aged men. The study, published in Bone, revealed that the bone mass of the whole body, lumbar spine and hip bones significantly increased after a six-month weight lifting program; offsetting the risks of developing osteoporosis by facilitating bone growth.

The research, led by Associate Professor Pam Hinton, studied a group of 38 physically active middle-aged men who participated in either a weight-lifting or jumping program for 12 months. The participants were required to complete 60-120 minutes of targeted exercises each week.

Each participant’s bone mass was measured at the beginning of the study and again at six and 12 months. The results revealed that after six months the bone mass of the whole body and lumbar spine noticeably increased – and was maintained over the entire 12-month period.

According to Hinton, the training programs were effective as a result of targeted exercises. Hinton explained that ‘only the bone experiencing the mechanical load is going to get stronger’, which is why specific exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges and the overhead press were chosen, in order to load the hips and spine.

Researchers concluded that these exercises could be prescribed to reverse the bone loss associated with ageing. The exercises undertaken by participants in this study are effective, safe and only require 60-120 minutes of time each week, a feasible goal for most people.

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