Exercise as it relates to Disease/Weight training in the treatment of osteoporosis

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Weight training in the treatment of osteoporosis
An osteoporotic elderly women (Japan)

This fact sheet has been designed for people suffering from osteoporosis and who hope to improve their condition using weight training. It provides background information on osteoporosis and the role of weight training in treating the condition, along with current research studies which prove the beneficial effects of weight training and osteoporosis. Furthermore, exercise recommendations have been provided for anyone who is interested in designing a weight training program to deal with the condition.

What is Osteoporosis?[edit | edit source]

Osteoporosis is a systemic skeletal disease characterised by gradual thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density. This condition occurs when ‘bone resorption out paces bone deposit’,[1] increasing both fragility of bones and chances of fracture.

Role of weight training in treating osteoporosis?[edit | edit source]

Long-term weight training is one of the best treatments for osteoporosis because of its effect on bone mineral density. Placing mechanical stress on 'bone during weight-bearing exercises are thought to directly affect the structure characteristics of bone’.[2] This structure and characteristic change in areas undergoing long-term mechanical stress is as a result of the activation of osteogenesis, which involves: ‘the balance between local formation and resorption changing to favour formation, thereby increasing local density and making that region stiffer’.[3] Exercise, however, cannot completely reverse the effects of osteoporosis, but it can slow the process down or stop the disease from further systematically thinning bone and increasing its fragility.

Exercise recommendations[edit | edit source]

Elderly man with a dumbell sitting on an exercise ball

Osteoporosis is a systematic condition, so full-body exercise is important. Individuals with osteoporosis are at a much higher risk of having a fracture than those without the disease; therefore exercise load must start a moderate level, and then gradually increased in order to activate an osteogenic response. Though aerobic exercise is beneficial for individuals with osteoporosis and is ‘advantageous for the total person; it may not provide as much protection of bone' [4] as anaerobic resistance training does; therefore exercise volume should range between 2-3 sets per exercise, and 4-8 repetitions per set. Full recovery after sessions is also crucial, so strength training should not be on consecutive days and should not exceed 4 days per week. Besides strength, flexibility is also an important factor for reducing the risk of falls. Stretching exercises can be used before and/or after training sessions to increase flexibility. Furthermore, the Chinese martial art known as ‘Tai Chi’ can be used to improve strength, posture and balance; making it an ideal activity for osteoporosis sufferers. All exercises subscribed must have a long-term commitment to be capable of treating osteoporosis.

Research based support for the issues[edit | edit source]

In ‘1996, two men, Welsh and Rutherford’,[5] conducted a study to observe the effects on bone mass density in a group of males involved in activities with ranging intensities. These males were split into different conditions undertaking either ‘high intensity, standing, free-weight program, moderate intensity, or seated resistance training’.[6] Results showed higher resistance training increased ‘lumbar bone mineral density by 2% in men (mean age =54 years)’,[7] while those participating in lower intensity activities had no bone mineral adaptation. This finding shows that bone needs to be loaded just enough to activate the process of osteogenesis; therefore treating osteoporosis.

Further reading / information sources[edit | edit source]

For further information regarding weight training and osteoporosis or osteoporosis in general contact your health care professional or visit:

Osteoporosis Australia - http://www.osteoporosis.org.au/[8]

Fact File on Osteoporosis - http://www.abc.net.au/health/library/stories/2004/04/29/1831468.htm[9]

Better Health Channel (2010). "Alzheimer's Disease Explained". Mental Health Research Institute. http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Alzheimer%27s_disease_explained?open

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Marieb, Elaine N. Hoehn, Katja. (2007). Human anatomy & Physiology, 7th edition, Pearson Education, inc, pg 193.
  2. Gormley, J. Hussey, J. (2005). Exercise therapy: prevention and treatment of disease, pg 173.
  3. Meunier P. J. (1998). Osteoporosis: diagnosis and management, Martin Dunitz Ltd. pg 273.
  4. Meunier P. J. (1998). Osteoporosis: diagnosis and management, Martin Dunitz Ltd. pg 171.
  5. Adler R.A. (2010). Osteoporosis: Pathophysiology and Clinical Management. Humana Press. pg 222.
  6. Adler R.A. (2010). Osteoporosis: Pathophysiology and Clinical Management. Humana Press. pg 222.
  7. Adler R.A. (2010). Osteoporosis: Pathophysiology and Clinical Management. Humana Press. pg 222.
  8. Osteoporosis Australia (2011). "About Osteoporosis". http://www.osteoporosis.org.au/,
  9. ABC Health and Wellbeing (2004). "Osteoporosis Fact File". http://www.abc.net.au/health/library/stories/2004/04/29/1831468.htm,