Can Weightlifting Reverse Age-Related Bone Loss in Middle-Aged Men?

Heres the facts we already know:

  • Men gradually lose bone mass as they age, which puts them at risk for developing osteoporosis, a condition that makes bones weak and prone to breakage.

  • Nearly two million men in the U.S. have the condition, and 16 million more have low bone mass, studies have shown.


Researchers at the University of Missouri have now discovered that certain types of weight lifting and jumping exercises completed for at least six months improve bone density in active, healthy middle-aged men with low bone mass. The study published in Bone - reveals that these exercises may also help prevent osteoporosis by facilitating bone growth.

For the study, the researchers studied 38 physically active, middle-aged men that had completed a year-long weight lifting or jumping program. Both programs required the participants to complete 60 to 120 minutes of targeted exercises each week.

The researchers measured the mens bone mass at the beginning of the study and again at six and 12 months using specialized X-ray scans of the whole body, hip and lumbar spine. The participants took calcium and vitamin D supplements throughout their training programs. They also rated pain and fatigue after completing their exercises throughout the training programs. They reported minimal pain and fatigue, and these ratings decreased over the year.

The Findings

  • The bone mass of the whole body and lumbar spine significantly increased after six months of completing the weight lifting or jumping programs, and this increase was maintained at 12 months.

  • Hip-bone density only increased among those who completed the weight lifting program.

  • The study results do not indicate that all kinds of weight lifting will help improve bone mass; targeted exercises made the training programs effective.


Weight-lifting programs exist to increase muscular strength, but less research has examined what happens to bones during these types of exercises, said Pam Hinton, an associate professor and the director of nutritional sciences graduate studies in the MU Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. Our study is the first to show that exercise-based interventions work to increase bone density in middle-aged men with low bone mass who are otherwise healthy. These exercises could be prescribed to reverse bone loss associated with aging. Individuals dont typically have to know they have heart disease, high blood pressure or prediabetes to start exercising they do it as prevention. Similarly, individuals dont have to know they have osteoporosis to start lifting weights. The interventions we studied are effective, safe and take 60-120 minutes per week to complete, which is feasible for most people. Also, the exercises can be done at home and require minimal exercise equipment, which adds to the ease of implementing and continuing these interventions.

Hinton added that individuals who want to use similar training programs to improve bone density should consider their current activity levels and exercise preferences as well as time and equipment constraints.

 

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