Women and Exercise for Bone Density Generation

Participant being guided through resistance ex...

Participant being guided through resistance exercise (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Exercise can often be the best way to treat many adverse physical conditions, however for bone health, finding the right exercise may be difficult


Often, women engage in resistance training to improve their health, but almost as often are limited by the safety and non-practicality of conventional resistance training. Conventional resistance training is effective for almost all adult populations, ranging from athlete to the deconditioned, and elderly. The protocols and techniques used for different athletic skills and ages depend on the conditioning level and interest/commitment of the individual. The following review of studies and observations about conventional resistance training illustrate some limitations in relation to muscle density and strength. This has a relationship to how much load can be given to the skeletal structure, as well as bone mass density development itself as applied to the female population.

Loads, not high enough

Conventional resistance training has been demonstrated to positively affect muscle growth (hypertrophy), which has a link to how much load is capable of being placed on the body by the individual. The loads required to increase the density of muscular tissue (myofibril hypertrophy), are difficult if not impossible to achieve with current technology with non youth populations. This type of muscular development accounts for muscular power and function as opposed to size. Petrella (2008), in the Journal of American Physiology analyzed muscular density development in a test group and made the observation that, out of 66 subjects they selected, 17 had either no or nominal response to a conventional resistance training protocol. Intensity of stimulus is directly related to adaptive responses in the human body.

 Loading, multiples of bodyweight

The observation has been made that loading that is affiliated with conventional resistance training is not of the level required to have more than a nominal effect on the osteoblastic function of bone mass, pointed out in the Journal of Bone and Mineral. Researchers Forwood and Burr (1993) in their study titled, “Physical activity and bone mass: exercises in futility?” state that with “moderate intensity exercise” only modest bone mass density changes can occur. Marcus (1996), a Stanford Endocrinology researcher, points out that most studies that have looked at bone mass development through exercise have focused on resistance training and running as methods of stimulation. Marcus points out that these activities show only modest change. He further points out that Heinonen et al. (1996) used high-impact exercise in an 18-month period and saw significant gains in the test group. The observations of the levels of loading that Marcus made are most profound.

What Should Women Do?

As impact exercise/activity has been shown to have a significant effect on bone mass density, and light or low impact exercise to have little or no effect, one may conclude that engaging in a high impact program is recommended. Unfortunately, the risk of injury is higher as the level of impact increases. There is currently research being conducted that provides the benefits of impact exercise/activity with a greatly reduced risk of injury in use. This innovation will allow for many to address their bone mass density and potentially reverse the effects of osteoporosis in a safe way.


Forwood, M. Burr, D. (1993). Physical activity and bone mass: exercises in futility? Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. May;21(2):89-112.

Heinonen, A., Kannus, P., Sievanen, H., Oja, P., Pasanen, M., Rinne, Ma., Uusi-Rasi, K., & Vuori, I. (1996). Randomised controlled trial of effect of high-impact exercise on selected risk factors for osteoporotic fractures. UKK Institute for Health Promotion Research. The Lancet 1996; 348 (9038): 1343-1347.

Marcus, R. (1996). Skeletal Impact of Exercise. The Lancet. November 1996. 384(9038): 1326-1327.

Petrella, J, K.,, Kim, Jeong-su,, Mayhew, D. L., Cross, J. M., & Bamman, M.M. (2008). Potent myofiber hypertrophy during resistance training in humans is associated with satellite cell-mediated myonuclear addition: a cluster analysis. Journal of Applied Physiology. 2008; 104:1736-1742, 2008.

Enhanced by Zemanta