Strength Training for All Ages
Those two words typically evoke images of amateur and professional athletes preparing to compete in a given sport.
But the truth is that strength training is good for people of all ages — even if you aren’t an athlete.
Strength training is particularly good for women facing menopause and the risk of osteoporosis.
“The loss of bone is an inevitable consequence of aging,” says Ann Zylstra, a physical therapist with EvergreenHealth.
Ann says that weight-bearing exercises during the pre-menopausal years can improve bone density and overall post-menopausal health.
“Strength training can increase bone density and muscle mass,” she explains. “When you load the bone with weight-bearing and resistance exercises, it responds by becoming stronger and stimulating the growth of new bone tissue.”
If you’re not a regular exerciser, Ann recommends starting with walking. “It’s cheap, easy and effective,” she says. “Research has shown that walking at least seven miles in a week – a mile a day – has a positive impact on bone density.”
Exercises for Pre-Menopausal Women
Ann also encourages women to think about strength training beyond weight benches and barbells.
Specific exercises can be done standing and sitting that provide the same effect. A few examples include:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your back against a wall.
- Hold a disc weight in each hand with your arms at your sides, palms facing inward.
- Slowly bend your knees and lower your buttocks eight inches or more without sinking below knee level.
- Pause. Then, slowly return to the starting position.
- Sit on the floor with your legs fully extended.
- Hook a resistance band on the balls of your feet. Wrap each end of the band around your hands.
- Keeping your back straight, pull the band toward you with both arms.
- Pause. Then slowly release your arms straight in front of you again.
- Lie on the floor with your knees hugged into your chest.
- Place the center of a resistance band on the balls of your feet. Wrap each end of the band around your hands.
- Keep your elbows close to your sides and squeeze your inner thighs together as you press your legs up toward the ceiling.
- Pause. Then draw your legs back down.
Yoga is another effective way to strengthen bones. EvergreenHealth’s video series on therapeutic yoga exercises is another great place to start. While originally designed for MS patients, the therapeutic yoga exercises are applicable to any adult.
Start young — and make it fun
Elementary-age kids are another group who can use strength training to prevent bone loss.
“Medical research is showing that kids who exercise before puberty are less likely to have bone density problems when they’re older,” Ann explains. “Bone mass gained during childhood helps determine how healthy bones will be later in life.”
Ann adds that while adults often view exercise as “work,” kids still see it as fun. In fact, there are many weight-bearing exercises they can do that won’t even seem like exercise, such as jump rope, hopscotch, dodge ball and tag.
Plus, with Wii Fit, Dance Central and other motion-controlled games for the Wii and Kinect, kids and parents can play their way to good health without even realizing it.
“The key is to have fun and model exercise for your kids by doing it with them,” Ann recommends.
Such activities will strengthen your bones and a whole lot more.