Bone Density In “Active” Adults VS Adults Who “Weight” Train.
When we refer to “Active Adults” we are looking at individuals who like to run for distances, Bike, Hike, Swim etc. Mostly any activity outdoors.
The primary reason for adults who strictly only do these forms of activity for having low bone density is that it is a non-weight bearing activity. Looking at High level training of these activities have been shown to have negative effects on bone strength because of the amount of time these individuals spend training for their activity.
Even though it may feel like you are training super hard at times, which is a fact you are, the forces you are putting into your activity are not distributed in a way that puts significant strain on your bones, which is needed for bone growth.
Recovery From Cycling, Running, Swimming etc
Necessary recovery time from hard training usually involves additional non-weight bearing activity of sitting or lying down. Most cyclists, runners, and swimmers reported avoiding weight bearing activities during recovery periods as a way to help “enhance recovery” from training.
Low Body Mass
Individuals who train in these sports are generally lighter, and low body mass is also a risk factor for osteoporosis and osteopenia. This especially applies to women (who in general have lower body mass) as well as to cyclists, runners, swimmers who are consistently striving to obtain lower body weight in order to improve performance.
What Should You Do to Improve Your Bone Density
We all want strong bones that are resistant to breaking; especially as we age. Let’s face it, a crash or fall at some point in your life is likely to happen. Stacking the odds in your favour by including activities to maintain and stimulate bone strength is your best line of defense against a fracture if you do happen to hit the ground at a greater impact than you would like.
“Strength training and putting impact forces on your bones is the number one thing you can do to promote bone health and bone density.”
Put Forces on Your Bones to Make Them Stronger
The aspects that account for bone strength include bone mineral density, content, bone size, and thickness. When muscles contract they pull on the bones to which they are connected. These forces provide the stimulus for bones to grow both thicker and denser. Maximal strength training and impact forces are the best way to provide this stimulus to your bones. A bone needs to experience a tenth of the amount of force needed to break it in order to be stimulated enough to create increased bone density. Remember this key factor in your strength work.
Don’t be afraid to lift relatively heavy weights, and add some plyometrics and impact training into your program. Some examples might be jumping rope or any kind of jumping, or even functional weight training/olympic lifting for fun to provide some impact for your upper body. Adding these things to your program AFTER developing a foundation will ensure that you are ready for the higher forces that these often place on the body. Strength training results in your body’s ability to actually increase the amount of muscle fibers that are fired, as well as, how fast they are able to fire. Both of these things result in the muscle being capable of producing more force, which in turn, means more forces exerted upon the bones to which they are attached.
In addition to providing greater forces to stimulate bone growth, strength training also reduces risk factors that result in broken bones by increasing muscle mass and improving balance. This is especially important in masters populations at any activity level. If you have better balance, more strength and muscle, and stronger bones, all of those things come together to make you more physically resilient and stable. You will be better prepared to handle that unexpected gust of wind or pothole due to increase core and total body strength and stability. If it happens that you are involved in a crash, your bones are less likely to crack under the impact. Now, you have two ways of staying off the injury list.
So looking at the overall big picture, being active and training for a sport outside definitely has its benefits but does little for increasing bone density. A strength training program would help to increase your chances of sustaining your outside sport by simply making you stronger and more resilient.