Build Bone Density with Strength Training
What Role Do Bones Play in the Body?
When you hear the term strength training the first thing that may come to mind are muscles. You find yourself visualizing a body builder gulping down a protein shake, that appears to go directly to his bicep muscle, which is bigger than your entire leg! What you do not think about is that under that ginormous muscle is a bone.
Our skeletal system consists of 206 bones. Bones provide our body its structure and ability to perform movement by working simultaneously with our muscles. Without bones, you would closely resemble that green slime monster you see in children’s cartoons.
In addition to providing structure and movement, bones protect the body's internal organs, produce blood cells and store minerals. Keeping our bones healthy from childhood through adulthood is important in preventing bone disease and maintaining health later in life. Most individuals reach their peak bone mass at the age of 30.
What is Bone Disease?
Our bones are constantly changing, as old bone is broken down, new bone is taking its place. Once we reach the age of 30, this process slows down, and old bone is broken down faster than new bone can take its place. When our bone density becomes weak and bones begin to become porous, it is referred to as osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a type of bone disease where the bone becomes brittle, increasing the risk of falling and fall-related injuries. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 54 million Americans have osteoporosis, with women being most at risk in comparison to men. Osteoporosis increases risk of fractures and can impact the ability to perform tasks independently during later stages of life. It is important to build healthy bone density by incorporating healthy movement and proper nutrition.
How Can Strength Training Help?
Think back to our body builder. The body builder must have strong dense bones to support the movement of his large bicep muscle! The question is, how?
Muscles are connected to our bones by tendons. When the body moves, the muscle pulls on the bone. Strength training is defined as movement with added resistance, such as weights. This kind of movement with resistance puts stress on the bone, which stimulates stem cells to create osteoblasts, or cells that create new bone.
Incorporating strength training at any stage in life is important for both maintaining and building bone density. It is recommended to perform strength training exercises for 30 minutes, four to five times per week. Some examples of strength training exercise include:
What is Nutrition’s Role in Bone Health?
In addition to healthy movement and weight management, proper nutrition is essential for healthy bone density. Eating a balanced diet that provides a wide variety of nutrients can help prevent bone disease.
According to Sharon Palmer, RD from Today's Dietitian, obtaining adequate levels of calcium and vitamin D in the diet is essential for promoting bone health. Calcium is stored in the bones and is reabsorbed during remodeling of new bone tissue. The current Daily Recommended Intake (DRI) for calcium is 1,000 mg for individuals aged 19-50 years and 1,200 mg for women over the age of 50 and men over the age of 70. Dietary sources of calcium include dairy products, dark leafy greens, beans, and fortified grains.
Vitamin D has been shown to enhance calcium absorption, while also helping to maintain calcium and phosphorus levels in the body. Both are used for bone mineralization during bone remodeling. The current DRI for vitamin D is 600 IU for both men and women under 70 years. Dietary sources of vitamin D include fish, cheese, eggs, and fortified foods.
Bottom line: strength training combined with a well-balanced diet is important for maintaining bone health and preventing bone disease.
Learn more about bone health and other wellness programs offered by Wellness Workdays.
Written by: Lexi Nazzaro, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern
1. Mayo Clinic