…and how you can reduce your risk of osteoporosis with exercise
Osteoporosis affects around 3 million people in the UK, especially women. It’s a widespread condition, in which the bone loses its density, putting you at risk of fractures, the most common being in the wrist, hip and spine. The worst aspect of osteoporosis is that there is no warning. By the time it’s diagnosed, it’s generally too late as the first sign of the condition is often a broken bone after a minor fall.
So… a high risk factor and no way of knowing until it’s too late. It certainly seems worth stacking the odds in our favour with proven lifestyle measures.
Introducing HIRT (High Intensity Resistance Training)
The health benefits of high intensity resistance training (HIRT) are far-reaching and impressive. There is evidence to suggest that HIRT can increase our bone mass and bone strength, and help prevent loss of bone mineral density as we age1,5. This is exciting news, especially as significant improvements in bone health can be achieved from just one 12-minute session of HIRT per week.
How can HIRT help improve our bone health?
Its long been known that an increase in muscle mass can protect the bone against fractures and breaks by acting as a shock absorber for the bone and reducing the impact of the break or fracture on the bone. This makes HIRT a superior type of exercise for senior citizens and those with osteoporosis or at higher risk of breaking or fracturing bone. Exercise such as jogging, running on treadmills in a gym and golf do not help to strengthen and increase muscle mass and therefore cannot provide the level of protection to bones that HIRT can.
But there’s more to this story than just protection of the bone
Something even more interesting and exciting is the strong evidence to suggest muscle can influence bone mass due to its ability to secrete hormones into the body known as myokines. Myokines are cytokines, which are small proteins, and other biological molecules that allow the body’s cells to communicate with each other. They are produced and released into the body when we contract our muscles3,4 for example during a HIRT session, and they have effects throughout the body.
How do these ‘myokines’ work in terms of improving bone health?
When we contract our muscles, for example lifting a heavy load in the gym, the muscles will release particular myokines that work to increase bone mineral density. There are several myokines and more are being discovered all the time, but particular ones at work here are insulin-like growth factor (IGF1), fibroblast growth factor (FGF2), interleukin-6 (IL6) and interleukin 15 (IL15). IL6 is linked to bone building whilst IL15 is associated with a reduction in fat mass and an increase in our bone mass5. The effect that strengthening the muscle can have on bone can be extremely significant with some evidence showing that HIRT can lead to a 19-fold increase in blood levels of IL6 compared to that of resting muscles6! Now that’s a big increase!
So, yes muscle can protect bone in terms of providing a buffer to protect against injury, but the link between muscle and bone goes much further still. If muscle can send hormonal signals across to the bone, instructing it to build and increase its density, then this is yet another reason why we must take steps towards strengthening our muscles.
This provides further and exciting evidence that HIRT can be used to help conditions such as sarcopenia (the gradual loss of muscle mass associated with aging) and osteoporosis. In order to increase bone mineral density we need to focus on low duration heavy load resistance training, such as a Rev5 workout once per week.
Rev5 is a fitness facility based in Windsor, Berkshire.
Francesca Liparoti is a Nutritional Therapist who specialises in weight loss. She loves to guide her clients on how to enjoy great nutritious food without deprivation, helping them to gain control of their weight and health. She coaches and inspires her clients to make positive changes and form life-long healthy habits.
Francesca is a member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT), which is the regulatory body for Nutritional Therapists and she is on the register of the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC).