Resistance training in which a weight is lifted or pushed reduces the rate of bone degeneration. The loading causes the bone-thickening cells (i.e., osteoblasts) within bone tissue to adapt to greater stresses and strains. Exercises performed in the standing position (e.g., shoulder presses, bicep curls, overhead tricep extensions) are ideal in developing good overall muscle and bone strength. The more the load placed on your bones, the more the effect of bone stimulation and growth.
Weight lifting is not absolutely necessary to lessen the rate of bone degeneration. Your body weight, which is a form of resistance, can also be somewhat sufficient in lessening the thinning of bone. Squats, lunges and stair climbing as well as walking, hiking and dancing can mitigate the onset of osteoporosis. Walking is highly recommended as the first step in the prevention of osteoporosis. To get the most benefit from walking, it is recommended it be performed most days of the week.
BOTTOM LINE: Light-resistance workouts can be effective in preventing bone loss and is a practical, recommended means of strength training for older people. Older people tend to adapt and progress more readily when prescribed a low-load, high-rep protocol for exercise programming. This type of program is also recommended for people with osteopenia and/or osteoporosis whose weakened bones may not be able to withstand the stress of high-intensity training. Sedentary people, post-menopausal women and those with osteopenia (low bone mineral density) benefit the most from resistance training. To maintain or increase bone strength, perform short bouts (i.e., 5 to 10 minutes) of weight-bearing exercise most days of the week.
Brian Danley, CFT
"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going."