While the previous post explored what causes diminished bone mineral density and what exactly osteoporosis is, now we want to discuss solutions and things we can do to protect ourselves from the risks of losing bone mass.
Osteopenia: less bone mass
Osteoporosis: less bone mass that results in an increased risk for fracture
Fluctuations in bone mineral density can be normal to some degree. The decreased production of sex hormones, age, genetics can all be responsible for a low bone density score. Furthermore, people with lower muscular strength, lean mass and sarcopenia (age-related loss of muscle mass), are associated with and are indicators of osteoporosis. The concern, however, is not necessarily a lower bone mineral density but the increased risk for a fracture. The lifetime risk of any osteoporotic fracture is high and lies within the range of 40-50% in women and 13-22% for men. So what are we going to do about it? Might I suggest improving your muscle quality?
THE MUSCLE QUALITY – BONE DENSITY CONNECTION
There are two ways in which improving muscle quality directly improves the health of the skeletal system and more importantly protects us from greater risk of fractures from osteoporosis.
- Increased bone mineral density
- Stronger muscles yield greater structural support to the skeletal system as well as greater force absorption.
First, we have the direct, measurable effect that strength training has in improving bone mineral density. We are talking specifically about improving your ‘score’ or the density of the bone on a bone mineral density test. There are various schools of thought on how activity and exercise can improve bone mineral density. Many health care professionals will have you believe walking is a great way to strengthen bones however this is NOT the case.
I think we can all agree that exercise improves bone mineral density. However, it goes back to what is our definition of exercise (see our definition of exercise in this article). All exercise is NOT created equal. Exercise has to force the body to make a positive adaptation. We at The Exercise Coach® define a positive adaptation to include increased bone mineral density which isn’t always understood by some health care professionals and personal trainers. I feel like the bad guy here but walking and other weight bearing activity like jogging does NOT stimulate bone density improvements. Dr. Nelson discusses this in her book Strong Women, Strong Bones, and the research says the same thing.
What’s more is that moderate intensity strength training where no meaningful demands are put on the musculature does NOT induce bone mineral density improvements either.
So what does work? Right Intensity Training™ of course!* The reason is because there is meaningful demand being put on the muscles. We know that as muscles become stronger and capable of generating more force the surrounding structures: tendons, ligaments, bone must also become stronger.
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Exercise not only needs to induce positive adaptations but also ensure that the body is not being put at risk for injury. We are looking for the sweet spot of exercise intensity that forces positive adaptations while protecting the body from any potential injury. This is where our trademarked Right Intensity Training™ is the ideal.
This leads right into the fact that stronger muscles result in stronger structural support for our bones. Remember, osteoporosis means that the loss of bone mineral density has resulted in an increased risk of fracture. Furthermore, some may even argue that decreased bone mineral density is a natural part of aging that coincides with hormonal changes and it’s inevitable. Do we just accept our fate and go quietly into the night if thisis true? Of course not!!! So to combat that we must find ways to lower your risk for fracture.
THE MUSCLE QUALITY – OSTEOPOROSIS CONNECTION
As muscle quality improves, several factors can lead to a decreased risk for fracture. First, think of the stronger the supporting musculature the more force absorption your body can tolerate. We see this with the eccentric aspects of our training. Not only are we able to absorb more force but the increased muscle quality also works as a force-dissipating agent to protect our bones.**
Another interesting way to look at reducing your risk of fracture is to understand the structural support of the spine itself. Arthur Jones, an exercise pioneer, said if you stripped away the surrounding muscular support around the spine it would collapse beneath the weight of a can of soda. The reason it doesn’t is because of the muscle mass supporting it.** Stands to reason that it’s as pretty good idea to maximize the muscle we have if we want to prevent and reduce our risk of bone fractures.
To recap, walking, low to moderate intensity activity, and weight-bearing recreation do not and will not stimulate improvements in bone mineral density nor does it reduce your risk for osteoporotic fracture. Right Intensity Training™ and improved muscle quality is the only and best way to have a positive impact through exercise! Good thing you know where to go for that!
* See articles Effects of High-Intensity Strength Training on Multiple Risk Factors for Osteoporotic Fractures; The effects of progressive resistance training on bone density: a review.
** Dr. Doug McGuff, Body By Science, pg 107
Read the rest of this series:
Muscle Quality: Improving It Will Change Your Life
Muscle Quality and the Neurological System: Part 1
Muscle Quality and the Neurological System: Part 2
Muscle Quality and Fat Loss
Muscle Quality and “Cardio”
Muscle Quality and Cardiovascular Health
The Downside to prolonged “Cardio”
Muscle Quality and Osteoporosis
How to Combat Osteoporosis through Strength Training
Muscle Quality and Gastrointestinal Health
Muscle Quality and Inflammation
Muscle Quality and Brain Health
Muscle Quality and The Endocrine System: Part 1
Muscle Quality and The Endocrine System: Part 2