Weight training safely builds bones for older women with osteoporosis, study finds

06 Oct 2017

Exercises sessions focused on weight lifting have been found to be an effective way of safely building bone strength in postmenopausal women, a new study has found.

While scientists have known for a while that a number of different exercises can be beneficial for bone health, there has been reluctance to recommend weight training because of the potential fracture risk.

But a new study, published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, has found that twice weekly half hour sessions of weight lifting, resistance and impact exercises improved bone density in post-menopausal women with low bone density.

In the study, 101 women aged over 58 took part in either 8 months of twice-weekly, 30-minute, supervised high-intensity resistance and impact training or a home-based, low-intensity exercise program.

The groups had their bone density measured both before and after the exercise programmes. Bone density increased in the high intensity group relative to the low intensity group.

The results showed that closely supervised exercise training interventions of this type are effective and safe for women with osteoporosis.

Katherine Brooke-Wavell, Senior Lecturer in Human Biology at Loughborough University and a scientific advisor to the National Osteoporosis Society said the study provided evidence that brief high intensity exercises involving weights or jumping can improve spine and hip bone density in postmenopausal women so may have a role in prevention of osteoporotic fracture.

“This study is significant in indicating that high intensity exercise is feasible and effective in women with low bone density. Concerns about the safety of high intensity training mean that often postmenopausal women have been recommended to do less strenuous exercise, which may be less effective at strengthening bone,” she said. 

“It is important to bear in mind that the exercises were supervised by a physiotherapist, with a very gradual introduction to ensure all women developed correct technique before lifting heavier weights,” she added.

“This study is still important, though, in demonstrating that appropriately supervised high intensity exercise is feasible and beneficial in those women who are suitable to take part.”

The National Osteoporosis Society is currently working with exercise experts and health professionals to develop a consensus statement to standardise information given to people with osteoporosis about the best and most effective exercises to safely strengthen bones. For more information on exercise for strong bones see our booklet.

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