Why we Should all be Lifting Heavy Weights for Strong Bones
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Why we Should all be Lifting Heavy Weights for Strong Bones

Why we Should all be Lifting Heavy Weights for Strong Bones

The importance of lifting heavy weights, especially when it comes to our bone health as we age, is getting a lot of attention in the media lately – including the ABC who ran a story just last month on Virgina Trioli’s fall that led her to take up heavy weight training  to improve her bone density. 

This is not a new discovery, but for a lot of people not something they have considered an important part of the exercise regime, especially when they think about bone density. Or, they may be intimated by the thought of heavy weight training, especially if it is something new for them. We sat down with one of our Directors at BSSC, and Physiotherapist and Gym Rehabilitation Therapist Bruce Gilmore, to hear his thought and insights on the topic.

Why and how does lifting heavy weights impact our bone density?

Lifting heavy weights can significantly boost bone density, which is crucial for keeping bones strong and less prone to fractures as we age.

Physical strain on the bones triggers our bodies to initiate a repair process, which involves the activation of osteoblasts, cells within the bone responsible for building new bone tissue.

The body is always in a state of building up and breaking down. If there is too little stress on the skeletal system bones will demineralise and become less dense. Equally if there is too much stress the bones can’t remodel quickly enough and bone stress injuries can occur.

Lifting heavier weights with lower volumes stresses the bones in a positive way. It’s harder to overdo the exercise as the muscles fatigue quickly. If the weights are too light there is not enough load to trigger this bone re-modelling process.

When we subject our bones to a positive loading stress in the “sweet spot” there is an uptick in bone re-modelling activity which make bones more dense and stronger, without overdoing the exercise.

There are other factors – genetic, medications and diet etc that also influence bone density often outside your control, but lifting exercise is something that everyone can do.

What age should we be starting to do it?

Now! When’s the best time to start? Well, it’s ideal to get into weight training during your 30’s or 40’s, as that’s when your bones are still in pretty good shape.

Is it too late to start? Or can you always improve bone density through weight training, no matter your age?

But if you’re in your mid-50s like many of us, don’t fret—it’s definitely not too late to start. Even at this stage, weight training can do wonders for your bone health and help stave off age-related bone loss.

What would you consider ‘heavy’?

Think of it as a weight that challenges your muscles and makes them work hard, but still allows you to maintain proper form. You want to aim for a weight that you can lift for about 6 to 12 repetitions before feeling fatigued. The caveat here is what your current level of fitness and exercise experience is.  Start with lighter weights if you’re new to weight training, and gradually increase the intensity as you get stronger.

Is heavy resistance training safe if you already have low bone density?

Yes. The LIFTMOR trial undertaken in Australia in 2017 studied postmenopausal women with low to very low bone mass, found twice weekly heavy resistance training to enhance bone strength at common fracture sites, as well as improving posture and reducing falls risk. The trial had no adverse events from the resistance program.

How many times a week would you suggest someone does weight training? And how is a safe way to get started?

Aim for two to three sessions a week. This gives your muscles and bones enough time to recover between workouts. And remember, it’s crucial to start slowly and focus on proper technique to avoid injury. Consider working with one of or exercise physiotherapist’s at least initially, to ensure you’re using the correct form and progressing safely.

Too little and you’re not going to get the benefit and too much you’re at risk of injury and strain.

If weights training is an area you would like to get started in, please book in a consultation with Bruce Gilmore or Emily Green who both specialize in this area, and can work with you to create a safe and effective heavy weights program. You can book via Hotdoc, or by calling the clinic on 03 9596 7211. You can also learn more about the gym at BSSC here.





If there is a part of your condition or injury that you are struggling to understand, be sure to seek clarification with your medical professional. None of the information in this article is a replacement for proper medical advice. Always seek advice from your trusted medical professional regarding your health and/or medical conditions.