What effect does exercise have on bone mass in older adults? A recent systematic review demonstrates that the effect is very beneficial, that older adults need to keep active in their advanced years to build bone mass, and that two main categories of exercise are essential (1). The two categories are weight bearing exercises and strength training.
A systematic review is a research study that involves a review of a large body of research articles and studies on a specific topic and draws appropriate conclusions.
This review supports the MelioGuide Exercise for Better Bones program.
Bone Mass and Exercise
A transcript of the video is available at the bottom of this article.
Weight Bearing and Cardiovascular Exercise
The review concluded that comfortable walking is not enough to stimulate bone mass. However, when we increase the pace (i.e., running, climbing or brisk movement) or make it multi-component (i.e, nordic walking), the benefit is noticeable. Depending on activity level, the increase in bone mass ranged from 1% to 6%.
What is even more significant was that when the review compared the active people with the control group (of inactive people) the differences were significant. The people in the control group (who were inactive) lost bone mass of up to 5%. Over time this difference between the groups demonstrates that cardiovascular weight bearing exercises are extremely beneficial – in fact, they are essential.
The review demonstrated that strength training allowed people to build bone mass not only at the hip but also at the spine. Further, like the experience with people who did weight bearing exercises, the benefits to people who did strength training compared to those who did none was significant. People who followed a strength training program improved bone mass. Those that did not, lost bone mass.
Benefit of Balance
The review also showed that weight bearing and strength training carried over to improved balance – a key part of fall prevention and fracture risk reduction.
Bone Loss Over Time – Use it Or Lose It
The review showed that both women and men lose bone mass (at different rates and at different times) if they are inactive. It also showed that both sexes can gain bone mass – even in their 60s and 70s.
The message is clear. Be active as early as you can. Stay active. Incorporate both strength training and weight bearing into your exercise program.
- Effects of training on bone mass in older adults: a systematic review. Gomez-Cabello, et al. Sports Medicine. April, 2012.