I got a question today from Maggie about whether resistance bands will really build bone. Good question, Maggie!
Muscle strengthening exercises exert a pull on bones, no matter what method is used, weights, bands, exercise machines, or body weight.
Muscles are attached to our skeleton by tendons. When you work muscles a little harder than usual, the muscles and their tendons exert a harder pull on the adjacent bones, stimulating them to slow down bone loss. Strength training and bone density research usually have been done using machines because of the ease in controlling the variables, but research has been done with muscle strength and resistance bands.
Resistance bands show gains in muscle strength comparable to weights.
In their book, Strength Band Training, physical therapists Phil Page and Todd Ellenbecker state, “Research demonstrates that ERT (elastic resistance training) provides as much benefit in strength gains as the use of more expensive and bulky weight-training equipment. A 2008 study by Colado & Triplett compared 10 weeks of elastic- and machine-based exercise at the same intensities…The elastic- and machine-based groups significantly increased their strength and muscle mass…” “In fact, strength training of the legs with elastic resistance can even help improve your balance, gait, and mobility.” Improvement in your agility and balance are so important for staying on your feet and another reason why bands are great for bones! Since most fractures occur from a fall, if we’re more agile and balanced, we’ll have less chance of a fall and a fracture.
Author Kerri Winters-Stone, PhD is an exercise physiologist and researcher who has developed exercise programs to improve bone health and reduce the risk of fractures. NASA , one of her grant sponsors, is very concerned with the bone health of its astronauts because of the rapid loss of bone during space travel. In Dr. Winters-Stones’ book, Action Plan for Osteoporosis, resistance bands are used in many of the upper body exercises.
Weight Bearing Exercise: Any Exercise Done on Your Feet
Weight bearing exercise is one of the two types of exercises known from university research to help bone strength. Often, we hear that we must do weight bearing exercise to help our bones. This conjures up images of bearing weights, but weight bearing exercise is simply any exercise done on your feet like brisk walking, climbing stairs, or any sport done upright and on your feet.
Strength Training, Resistance Training, Weight Training
The second type of exercise known to help bones is muscle strengthening exercise (also called strength, resistance, or weight training) and is any movement that creates a small, gradual overload reaction on the muscles and bones. It can be done with dumbbells, ankle weights, body weight, machines, or pulling on something like resistance bands. All of these means will produce the end result of stronger muscles which then pull harder on the bones during exercise. That harder pull is what stimulates our skeleton to build bone in our bone-building years and slow down or halt bone loss after thirty.
Bones Respond Well to Variety
Since bones respond well to variation, I teach a band workout in my over-fifty strength training class for women, every fourth class. My new DVD, Resistance Band Training for Osteoporosis Prevention, is that workout. We could use bands in class as often as every other day, but I have several different other dumbbell and ankle weight workouts that we do for variety to keep our muscles and bones strong and “on their toes.”
Research on Osteoporosis Prevention
Piecing together the puzzle of what exactly can help our bones from developing osteoporosis is a work in progress. Scientists around the world are working on it. Results show that study participants can often slow down or halt bone loss, with gains of around 1% in the post-menopausal years in just 2 strength or resistance training workouts per week. Those in the control groups that didn’t exercise continued to lose bone density and balance at varying rates.
Keeping Your Bones
Younger people can build bone up until age 30. After 30, it’s a matter of keeping that peak bone mass as long as possible. Bone loss is the most rapid in a woman’s life during the few years before and after menopause. Those short two hours a week of strength or resistance training can make all the difference in slowing bone loss and preventing osteoporosis.
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