Weight Training Essential for a Bone Strength Boost

8 minute read

When you think of weight training, chances are you picture bodybuilders and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The main goal of weight training is often mistakenly thought to only be pumping iron for beefy, bulging muscles.  

While this can be true when used in a specific regimen, there is a new way to look at weight training. These workouts can provide great benefit to your physique and health.

Science has shown that working out with weights is the best exercise you can do for your body.

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Also, you may see the terms “weight training,” “strength training,” and “resistance training” used online. These different terms are, for our purposes, basically all talking about the same thing and are more alike than different.

Using dumbbells or your own weight provides a better workout and creates lifelong physical function and fitness. The recent trend towards weight training has caused people to understand that it is not just about augmenting muscle size and strength: What is more important about weight training is that this additional “load” promotes healthier bones.  

It also strengthens the supporting muscles, tendons, and ligaments, which improves your overall health.

A senior couple working with dumbbells at the park

Bone Health

The critical component of bone heath relevant here is bone resorption, which is the decrease in bone tissue over time. In your youth, bone resorption is balanced and often exceeded by bone tissue generation.  

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The problem occurs later in life when bone tissue loss outpaces the generation of new bone. Bone resorption is especially prominent in those with a sedentary lifestyle and women during/after menopause.  

In truth, many adults are plagued with posture problems caused by the loss of bone tissue because of the weakness it causes to the body’s structure.

Weight training works to counteract postural problems and bone tissue loss through what is known as bone remodeling. During this process, the weight training exercises stimulate the development of bone osteoblasts, which are the cells responsible for building bones back up.

Aerobic exercise also helps to achieve this, especially in your lower body, but weight training is a much better way to enhance and maintain overall bone strength and resilience.

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Bone density is critical to your overall health because the strength of your bones and the weight they can bear is directly related to how well you can move around each day. Weight training can increase your bone density, helping keep you healthy now and fight of degenerative bone diseases and bone loss as you get older.  

A senior couple working with dumbbells at home

Specifically, there are three exercises that enhance bone density, and you should be practicing these daily.

Squats: Regular squats can be done but the exercise is more effective when performed with dumbbells. Hold the weights in front of your chest as you squat, or you can use an exercise ball against the wall. The traditional barbell back squat is also just as effective.

Lunges: Forward, reverse, or side lunges help to increase bone density. With each version you are required to engage your hip and leg muscles while balancing on one leg. When you add weights (dumbbells, barbell, or weighted vest) you allow for the bones and muscles to develop even greater strength.

Step Ups: Similar to the lunge, this exercise has you using a single leg to propel your body weight into the air, using a chair, or bench. You can enhance the exercise by adjusting the height of the platform or by adding weights.

Additional Benefits of Weight Training

More than boosting your bone strength, weight training offers a variety of great benefits to your overall health.

Balances Blood Sugar: Recently research found a link between weight training and improved insulin sensitivity among patients with diabetes. A weight-training session two times a week helps to control insulin swings as well as body weight.

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When muscles are very active, which they are during these sessions, they use glucose or blood sugar for energy, helping control the body’s overall levels and keeping them in healthy ranges. People at risk for type-2 diabetes or other metabolic conditions, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, will benefit from these weight-training sessions more than simple aerobic activity.

A group of senior women strenth train in the pool with an instructor

Controls Inflammation: The inflammatory response may be a regular part of our immune system; however, it can get out of control and cause serious health complications, such as heart disease.  Regular weight training has been linked to a reduction in inflammation as a result of shifting the body’s levels of cytokines, which are immune system proteins.

When weight training was performed twice a week, there was a significant reduction in inflammatory markers noted in the subjects.  

Enhanced Cognitive Function: Studies have been published that link weight training to improved cognitive function and enhanced mental focus. These exercises prevent cognitive decline through the use of insulin-like growth factor mechanisms.  

Exercise in general has been linked to better brain function and improved cognition, but the effects of weight training seem to have a direct effect.

Less Anxiety and Better Mood: Weight training has been found to improve overall well-being when performed regularly each week. Participants found that they felt less anxiety and a decrease in self-attentiveness, which is known to enhance psychological well-being.  

Muscle Building: Generally, people think that you need to lift heavy weights to build muscle, but this could not be more untrue. There is research to show that light-load training or lifting smaller weights benefits your health and enhances muscle growth and tone.  

When it comes to increasing muscle mass, it is more beneficial to lift until muscles are tired rather than lift heavy weights. Increasing your strength in this way allows you to improve almost every health outcome.

A middle-aged man works out at the gym with a trainer

The Bottom Line

With bones literally being the support system for your body, it is important to care for them. The aging process naturally wears them down, but, during your life, there is much you can do to prevent them from becoming too weak.  

Weight training is a good start. On top of a regular exercise and resistance program, you can increase your vitamin D and calcium intake with supplements available at any health food store.

Vitamin K and potassium are also valuable nutrients that not many people know about with regards to good health. An overall healthy lifestyle and diet will keep you in shape, but make sure you don’t forget about your bones: without them things could start to fall apart.

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