There has always been a cloud of hesitancy around strength training. Now, some may feel that it is meant only for athletes who must compete at a high, physical level. However, there were times when even athletes were told to stay away from the activity, until the added strength and stability resistance training provides was fully understood and appreciated. And can’t we all benefit form a little more strength and stability? So, in truth, strength training can (and should) be viewed as a method to benefit all, regardless of the individual’s activity level, age, or gender. One large benefit of strength training that every person should find of interest is the ability to strengthen our bones, the first layer of foundation for our body.
Sherk et al. found that those who strength train have a significantly higher bone mineral density than those who do not (2010). Those with a higher bone mineral density have stronger bones, and thus a sturdier foundation. The International Osteoporosis Foundation (2017) report that, in the US, over 45 million people suffer from osteoporosis. For those 50 years or older, one’s risk for having either osteoporosis or low bone mineral density is 55%. Luckily, strength training has shown to have benefits in all age ranges, and that elderly individuals can benefit just as much as their younger counterparts. Warren et al. concluded a study that middle aged women who progressively strength trained had a significantly higher bone mineral density within the femoral neck- a common location for hip fractures- than those who did not (2008).The strength of our hip and low back become extremely important as we age to reduce our risk of injuries. To further support that any age group can benefit from strength training, Taunton et al. conducted a study using participants age 75-80 to show the positive effects of strength training on bone mineral density. Specifically, the study showed that strength training significantly improved bone mass in the lumbar spine of the low back (2002). This is extremely relevant as the World Health Organization has stated that 60-70% of the population will experience low back pain, with an increased risk above age 55. Clearly, strength training has no limits on what age range it can help.
Studies have also followed the bone mineral density in those who are trying to lose weight and have been placed on a lower calorie diet. Beavers et al. compared the effects of resistance training to aerobic exercise on bone mineral density in a population trying to lose fat mass. It was determined that strength training significantly preserved more bone strength than aerobic exercise. This is very important because many people feel that when trying to lose weight, cardio is the answer. However, strength training offers many important benefits as well.
There are many benefits that can be acquired when one begins strength training. One large benefit is the ability to increase one’s bone strength. While this can be advantageous at any age, it especially becomes important as we progress later in life when our bones become weaker. While it is important to try to strengthen one’s bones as early as possible in life, plenty of research supports that beginning a strength training program at any age can have a significant and positive effect on bone mineral density. It is time to view strength training as a tool for all, because we all deserve the benefits.