Resistance Exercise for Osteoporosis Prevention

Osteoporosis is a skeletal disease that is characterised by low bone mineral density and changes in the structure of the bones (1).  Unfortunately, this increases the risk of fractures. This can be caused by a loss of bone calcium and minerals, which makes the bones brittle and susceptible to fractures. Osteoporosis can be a burden on society and ACSM reported that more than 10 million Americans over 45 years have osteoporosis (2).

Hip fractures are associated with increased risk of disability and death; these types of fractures are a primary site for weakness caused by osteoporosis (2). There is a higher incidence rate of osteoporosis in post-menopausal women and estrogen does seem to play a pivotal role in this (2)…

 

The Role of Estrogen

The three main mechanisms by which osteoporosis can develop are:

  • Inadequate bone mass
  • Excessive osteoclasts (used for bone resorption)
  • Poor formation of osteoblasts required for bone remodelling.  

Estrogen is a big hitter, as it excessively increases the rate of bone resorption and decreases the strength of the weight bearing bones (2). After the age of 30, the creation of new bone creation can’t balance out with the loss of bone tissue. The reduction in estrogen linked to the menopause does have a strong link to low bone density and osteoporosis. Around 5-10 years after the menopause, bone loss is vastly increased and this can lead to gradual weakening of the bone tissue and the risk of fractures (2).

 

The Role of Exercise

Exercise plays a major role in the prevention of osteoporosis because it has the following major benefits (2):

  • It increases peak bone mass and density
  • It slows down bone loss caused by aging
  • It increases falls by improving muscular strength and balance
  • It improves blood circulation and supply to the active bone mass
  • It improves reaction time, joint mobility, balance and coordination
  • It Reduces body weight and the amount of impact/load on the bones and joints
  • Enhances mood and general well-being.

Bones respond when they are stressed especially when they are ‘asked’ to load more weight than normal. This can be achieved by using weight bearing and resistance type exercises.  The factors of physical activity (frequency, intensity, time and type) each have an impcat on bone health; however research has indicated that the type of exercise is the important factor (2).   Target bone loading is designed to generate force via activities that encourage bone regions beyond the individual’s normal daily intensity. The main role of exercise for pre-menopausal women in their 40’s is to maintain bone density rather than trying to increase it and this needs to be considered when designing a fitness program.

 

The Use of ‘Band’ Exercises

Resistance band training is an inexpensive alternative to training with weights. The various forms of resistant band training can be used to improve joint mobility, joint stability, flexibility, muscular endurance, muscular strength, cardiovascular strength and in the prevention of osteoporosis.

They can be used in both a fitness and rehabilitation settings and whether you are a beginner or an expert; resistance bands are for you. Specifically, for these reasons they are an excellent piece of equipment in preventing osteoporosis.  Each resistance band does has a different resistance and this can be used to match your fitness level, change the intensity of the work out and this fits in seamlessly with many exercises that you are probably already performing!

This style of training allows you to move in multiple plans of movement with a greater range of motion. You can also adjust the angle of resistance by attaching them to an anchor point. Therefore by moving the anchor point upwards or downwards ensures that you are exercising large muscle groups simultaneously or you are you targeting isolated muscles when using the resistance bands.

This is not the case with exercise machines and many of these ‘dinosaurs’ within each gym across the country can cause overuse injuries because they are training the muscle at the wrong angle with too much resistance.

 

Benefits of Using Resistance Bands

Resistance band training has the following major benefits attached to it:

  • You don’t have to learn a new exercise routine as many of the exercises you are probably already performing.
  • They can be used in a comprehensive full body work out that target every muscle and major bone.
  • Resistance bands are easy to store and take up very little room.
  • They are light weight and portable.
  • They are an excellent alternative to free weights and machines.
  • They add an extra challenge to your work outs and can be used with or without an exercise buddy.
  • You can use them with weights or as an add-on to many bodyweight exercises.
  • If you drop them you are not going to injury your toes.
  • They are an excellent tool in the prevention of osteoporosis.

 

8 Resistance Band Exercises

Why not give these 8 band exercises a try, as they target all of the major bones and muscle groups. They have been included because they specifically increase the load on the bones and this in turn helps to increase bone strength and density.

 

1. Band Squat

Advice Technique

  • Place the band securely under your feet holding the band with your hands
  • Your hands should be at shoulder level with elbows bent
  • Lower yourself down into a squat position, remembering to keep the knees in line with the ankles and keep your back flat
  • Pause, then slowly push up through the heels and glutes so you are standing tall, keeping your elbows bent and hands at shoulder level
  • Repeat the squat.

 

2. Chest Press

Advice on Technique

  • Secure the band to a safe anchor point at a medium height behind you
  • Hold the band with your hands, palms facing downwards and elbows bent at chest level
  • Slightly lean forwards as your dominant foot is placed out in front of you with a bent knee for balance, the back leg should be at an angle with the foot flat to the floor
  • Start to stretch the arms out in front of you keeping them at chest level
  • Pause, slowly bring the elbows back squeezing the shoulder blades together
  • Keep the upper body still with a flat back throughout the motion.

 

3. Shoulder Press

Advice on Technique

  • Place the band securely under both feet as you stand tall with legs hip width apart
  • Hold the band in both arms, have the elbows bent with hands over the shoulders
  • Push up through the arms until they are fully extended (or as far as comfortable)
  • Pause, slowly lower the arms back down to the starting position
  • Repeat
  • Keep the upper body tall and straight at all times.

 

4. Standing Rows

Advice on Technique

  • Secure the band low to a safe anchor point, hold the band in both hands, elbows bent and palms facing inwards
  • Lower into a light squat position with a flat back
  • Start to pull the arms back as you pull the band towards the waist
  • Pause, slowly returning the arms back to the starting position
  • Keep a flat back throughout this motion
  • Repeat.

 

5. Trunk Rotation Low to High

Advice on Technique

  • Secure the band low to a safe anchor point
  • Standing tall with the band in both hands and arms stretched out at hip level
  • Start to rotate the upper body to one side as you bring your arms up stretched to the same side
  • Pause, slowly rotate the upper body back to the starting position, bringing the arms back down
  • Keep the arms stretched out throughout
  • Repeat.

 

6. Leg Extension

Advice on Technique

  • Lay flat on the floor with one leg raised and the other outstretched flat on the floor (you may wish to bend the resting leg if you prefer for better balance)
  • Place the band around the raised foot as you hold the band in both hands with elbows bent and hands placed by the shoulders
  • Bend the active leg from the knee to a 90 degree angle towards the chest as you pull back on the band with your hands
  • Immediately stretch the leg back to its full extension
  • Repeat.

 

7. Hamstring Curls

Advice on Technique

  • Secure your band to a low anchor point
  • Lay flat on your stomach with the band attached around your ankles
  • Rest on your elbows for support with your legs fully stretched
  • Begin to curl your heel into the hamstring of one leg
  • Pause, then lower the foot back down
  • Repeat on the other leg.

 

8. Front Deltoid Raise

Advice on Technique

  • Standing tall with one foot in front of the other, the front knee slightly bent and the back foot flat to the floor
  • Secure the band under the back foot and hold the band in both hands
  • Have the arms outstretched at thigh level
  • Pull the band up with the hands so the arms are parallel to the floor
  • Pause, slowly lower the arms back down to the hips
  • Repeat
  • Aim to keep the arms outstretched at all times, keep the upper body tall and straight. Keep the weight strong into your feet.

 

References

  • Ciolac, E.G., Brech, G.C. and Greve, J.M.D. (2010). Age does not affect exercise intensity progression among women. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research,24, 11, 3023-3030. 
  • ACSM's guidelines for exercise testing and prescription (2014). Philadelphia : Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Health