Weight lifting with bone loss? Whether you’re in the osteoporosis or low bone density range, commonly called osteopenia, a weight limit for free weights will sometimes be suggested when beginning a strength training program designed to strengthen bones. In the past, the National Osteoporosis Foundation has recommended a conservative 10 pound limit with any bone loss because, for some people, simply bending over at the waist or taking 10 lb. turkey out of the oven can cause a fracture.
However, knowing that too many restrictions create too much fear and ultimately less physical activity, which causes more bone loss, the Too Fit to Fracture advisory panel (endorsed by the NOF) has given exercise guidelines depending on if a person has fractured or not. Check it out…it’s the latest advice from world renowned bone health experts, 2 years in the making, and worth the read. Note that these guidelines apply to anyone with bone loss, whether in the osteoporosis or osteopenia category.
Unless a person has had a fracture, Too Fit to Fracture recommends going by the national physical activity guidelines with the adaptations of not rounding the spine or twisting to the point of strain.
In the US, these guidelines are 150 minutes of aerobic exercise, plus strength training 2 or more times a week, with 8-12 repetitions, using resistance bands, free weights, or body weight for resistance. It should be a progressive strength training program with increased resistance when the exercises are no longer challenging.
For those who’ve had a spinal fracture, the Too Fit to Fracture panel suggests seeing a qualified instructor (or a healthcare provider, certified personal trainer, or physical therapist). With fractures, it’s suggested to focus on good form and body alignment, rather than on how hard you are working, using resistance bands or body weight for resistance.
Still, you’re probably wondering how heavy a weight is safe for you! It’s one of those individual “consult with your healthcare provider” questions. I haven’t seen any specifics lately, even from the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
In my strength training exercise classes, I have participants consult with their healthcare provider for a weight limit. Unless they’ve had a fracture, they are usually told to listen to their body, not overdo it, and keep good body alignment. They use a wide range of free weights, from 0 to 25 pounds, depending on the exercise as well as their own individual risk factors and situation. It has worked well over the years to follow the safety precautions of keeping a neutral spine with no forward flexion or twisting to the point of strain.
Moving within those parameters while exercising helps my class participants maintain good body alignment throughout their day. American Bone Health has a fabulous downloadable exercise brochure called, Do It Right! And Prevent Fractures!
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