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Enhance Bone Health with High-Intensity Strength Training

drawing of a skeleton

Recent Australian research illuminates the extraordinary resilience of the human body, emphasizing the pivotal role of high-intensity strength training. The LIFTMOR (Lifestyle-Intervention and Functional Exercise for Osteoporosis) trials conducted a series of studies exploring the impact of exercise on bone health in older adults, specifically those with osteoporosis. The goal was clear: to assess whether a targeted exercise regimen could enhance bone mineral density, reduce fall risks, and prevent fractures.

The LIFTMOR trials focused on two key strategies: high-intensity resistance and impact training (HiRIT). This involved progressive weight-bearing exercises targeting lower limbs and the axial skeleton, such as lunges, squats, jumps, and step-ups.

The surprise? The intensity surpassed expectations. Participants, postmenopausal women over 58 with low bone mass (average age 65), engaged in two 30-minute sessions weekly. After a month of acclimatization, they tackled deadlifts, overhead presses, and back squats at 80–85% of their 1 rep max for 5 sets of 5, along with impactful exercises like jumping chin-ups with drop landings.

Contrastingly, a control group of postmenopausal women (average age 65) completed an 8-month, twice-weekly, 30-minute exercise program with lower intensity (10–15 reps at <60% of 1 rep max).

The results were striking. The high-intensity group outperformed the control, showing significant improvements in bone mineral density (BMD), strength, and functional measures (timed up-and-go test, 5 times sit-to-stand test, and functional reach test).

Addressing concerns about injury risks, the high-intensity interventions proved safe and effective, even in a population considered high risk due to poor bone mineral density, hormonal changes, and a lack of physical activity baseline.

This challenges conventional wisdom, urging a reconsideration of our messaging on the safety and efficacy of high-intensity activity, especially for those at risk of bone-related issues. The findings emphasize the potential benefits of embracing intensity, even for postmenopausal women, fostering a new perspective on exercise for bone health.

For more, check out the deep dive on Medium (free link)


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