One of the scariest things about growing older is the chance of a hip fracture. If you are a woman over the age of 75, you have about a 1 in 5 chance of dying within a year of a hip fracture. This is from a combination of factors but—for the purpose of this discussion—let’s just agree that prevention is our main focus.
Academics previously thought that bone mineral density was essentially a fixed quality—and part of an inevitable decline beginning in your 20s. However, strength coaches have long felt otherwise. There is now quality research to support that gut feeling. Bone density loss can be slowed—and even reversed in some areas.
In a systematic review (the highest level of evidence) cited in Osteoporosis International, researchers showed that hip fractures can be reduced by 30% by increasing peak bone mass by 10%. More important, this can be done throughout your entire lifespan. The earlier this process begins the better—but it can be started at any time.
Ok, great—but how does that get done?
Dynamic resistance training
The study above focused on dynamic resistance training—meaning weight training with loads that increase over time. Some high-impact activities—like running—have also shown positive effects. However, one of the key advantages of resistance training is the ability to regulate speed and complexity. Applying this framework intelligently reduces risk and maximizes the bone density-building benefits.
Free weights win
There are two major advantages to free weights:
- Less weight is required to show the same improvements to bone density
- Free weights more effectively contribute to overall function and mobility—creating more athletic, more resilient human beings.
If you are a novice
Start slowly. Something as simple as carrying weight for short distances is effective and low-risk. Holding static positions—such as a wall sit or the top of a push-up—can also prepare you for more intense loaded work down the road. And while not covered in the research above, we believe that they also have a positive effect on bone density.
As you build strength training experience and body awareness, you can begin to explore your limits with a little more intensity. We recommend a build and consolidate approach—with no more than a 10% increase in training volumes (total reps times weight moved) per week—including regular levelling-off periods where you improve technique and relative comfort with the same loads.
Want some support? We’d love to work with you.