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If you’re reading this, then chances are you’re young and health conscious. More likely than not, you’re also fit and in good shape. Unfortunately this may not be the case 30 years down the track. However, there are some pretty good reasons for never retiring your weights. Other than the immediate benefits exercise and weight lifting are able to provide, there are also long term health benefits, particular that involved with the prevention of osteoporosis and fractures. Quite often we think a lot about your muscles, but forget about what they’re attached to, ie. our bones. Without good bone health, you can kiss quality of life goodbye. It may seem like old age is a long while away, but let’s face it, it’s bound to happen, so we might as well be prepared for it.

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a multifactorial disease associated with ageing and hormonal changes, which results in a decreased bone mass and bone strength (Combs, 1998). It is possible that disuse may also be a significant contributor to the loss of bone density (Gutin & Kasper, 1992). This poses a severe health risk as it is the cause of bone fragility and life threatening fractures among the elderly.

Preventing Osteoporosis with Weight training

Weight training and other vigorous exercise in general work in two ways to help prevent bone fragility. First of all, exercise increases the bone density of the area exercised (Sinaki, 1989). This is your body directly responding to the challenges you put it through. Increased bone density is directly related to bone strength, thereby reducing the chances of breakage. Secondly, exercise increases muscle strength, if this was continued into old age, strong muscles mean a decreased likelihood of falling (Henderson et al, 1998). When exercising at a young age, you are essentially maximising your peak bone mass, which means you are entering old age with a higher bone density than non-exercising people. However, the catch is, you must keep training to maintain this high bone density (Karlsson, et al, 2000). That’s probably the best excuse to never retire your weights.

Train for Balanced Muscle Development

As a body builder it makes no sense to train only half your body. Likewise if you are an athlete, you do not want to be unbalanced. Not only are total body workouts important when you’re young, as mentioned above, only bones within the exercised regions become stronger. So do full body workouts to ensure that you have no weak chinks in your skeletal armour and the older version of yourself can take a fall without shattering.

Train Wisely for Bone Health & Injury Prevention

A note of caution though, even though exercise may prevent osteoporosis and fractures later in life, it’s important to know that excessive high impact exercise may lead to stress fractures in the present. So make sure you have a sensible workout regime, and give your body a chance to recover. Not only is this important for better gains, but also for your bone health. If necessary consult with a qualitied exercise professional to help you plan your training programme. Due to its widespread acceptance and effectiveness, many elderly people have been recommended by their healthcare professionals to commence weight bearing exercises to reduce the likelihood of fractures, as well as taking calcium and vitamin D supplements. However, this often comes after the occurrence of a fracture, and by then they’ve already gone through the pain of breakage and rehab. After reading this, you know to never stop lifting so you can prevent fractures in the first place.

Combs (1998). The Vitamins: Fundamental Aspects in Nutrition and Health, London, Academic Press.
Gutin & Kasper (1992), Can vigorous exercise play a role in osteoporosis prevention? A review. Osteoporosis International, 2: 55-69
Henderson et al (1998), The roldes of exercise and fall risk reduction in the prevention of osteoporosis. 27: 369-387.
Karlsson et al (2000), Exercise during growth and bone mineral density and fractions in old age. The Lancet 355: 469-470.
Sinaki (1989), Exercise and Osteoporosis. Arch Phys Med Rehabil, 70: 220-229.

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