2 hours of strength training a week improves bone density

We’ve heard over and over that one of the best ways to build bone is exercise. I can’t tell you how many studies I’ve seen to confirm that. But the question a lot of people ask is, “How much do I need to do?”

And there’s great news for people with limited time: New research from the German scientist Wolfgang Kemmler shows that 2 hours per week of high-impact strength-training exercises done over the years on a regular basis is enough to favorably impact bone density, significantly reducing the rate of aging bone loss.

What a powerful argument for the importance of getting regular exercise – especially when you consider that I have seen research suggesting that, without taking any preventive measures, the average women will lose 45% of her bone and muscle mass as she moves from 35 to 85.

Latest study cuts exercise time needed for bone benefits

I first became aware of Dr. Kemmler’s studies in 2003 when his group published research showing that early postmenopausal women with osteopenia could get actually gain bone mass doing 4 hour-long strength training sessions per week. In this 14 month study the exercise program involved a variety of strength-building activities, including included warm-up/endurance, jumping, strength and flexibility training.

Remember, early postmenopause is a time when women lose 5% or even 10% of their bone mass. These exercising women actually gained bone density as a result of their serious strength training done 4 times a week.

Since I don’t think I could add 4 hour-long workouts into my week at that point without a lot of juggling, I was excited to see Dr. Kemmler’s latest report that bone benefits could be seen with a minimum of 2 hours per week of high-impact strength-training exercises.

Mindful exercise options for building bone

If strength training isn’t your thing when it comes to exercise, remember what we’ve seen about the effect on bone from different types of exercise at different exercise frequencies:

  • My friend, Miranda Esmonde-White, also reports that her Classical Stretch exercise program done on a regular basis has also led to increase in bone density. The same thing has been suggested for tai chi and other more mindful exercise modalities.
  • Studies now document that the regular practice of yoga could halt bone loss and begin to build new bone.
  • For those who love to walk, using a weighted vest is one of my favorite muscle and bone-building exercise options.

For me, it boils down to this: your exercise program will be good for bones if it’s sufficiently strenuous to maintain and even build body strength, and if you do it on a regular basis over the years.

Kemmler, Wolfgang et al., The Erlangen fitness osteoporosis prevention study: a controlled exercise trial in early postmenopausal women with low bone density—first-year results. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation , Volume 84 , Issue 5 , 673 – 682,2003

Kemmler, Wolfgang et al. Exercise frequency and bone mineral density development in exercising postmenopausal osteopenic women. Is there a critical dose of exercise for affecting bone? Results of the Erlangen Fitness and Osteoporosis Prevention Study. Bone , Volume 89 , 1 – 6 (https://secure.jbs.elsevierhealth.com/action/showCitFormats?pii=S8756-3282%2816%2930106-5&doi=10.1016%2Fj.bone.2016.04.019&code=bon-site)

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