Resistance training improves older bones

Big improvements in strength with no injuries have been the hallmarks of success with a Griffith University study looking at the physical function of post-menopausal women.

 

The study, which has been underway since July 2014, is looking at whether high load resistance training is a safe and effective strategy for improving bone and muscle strength.

 

The answer to this, says lead researcher Associate Professor Belinda Beck, looks set to be yes.

 

Called LIFTMOR (Lifting Intervention For Training Muscle and Osteoporosis Rehabilitation), the study is recruiting 100 healthy women aged over 60.

 

Half of the women are randomly assigned to a high-load resistance training program either on the Gold Coast or in Brisbane. The other half are asked to complete a lower load home-based exercise program.

 

The program takes 30 minutes twice a week for eight months, with participants told to undertake a small number of exercises of gradually increasing intensity.

 

All study participants receive free scans at the beginning and end of the study to assess changes in bone mass and muscle strength.

 

One in three women

“Unfortunately, one in three women will experience a fracture after the age of 60 as a result of a gradual decline in bone health, some of which may be fatal or cause significant loss of independence,” says Associate Professor Beck from Griffith’s Menzies Health Institute Queensland.

 

“Although we haven’t completed recruitment or data collection, so far this research has been showing some very positive outcomes, with the women showing an increase in strength which we hope will translate into a reduced risk of fracture.”

 

Gold Coast resident Kathy Baigent, 61, says she feels a lot stronger since starting the program last Winter. “Before starting my shoulders and upper limbs were pretty weak but I now feel a big improvement in strength.

 

“I have also seen more strength and stability return to my dodgy knee so I can see the program is pretty beneficial.”

 

Associate Professor Beck says she is now extending the study to look at men and is hopeful of attracting a further 100 participants.

 

“People wrongly think that osteoporosis only affects women but the reality is that one in five men will also suffer an osteoporotic fracture over the age of 60. Men unfortunately are much less diagnosed.”

 

Within ten years, it is estimated that 6.2 million Australians over the age of 50 will suffer from osteoporosis or osteopenia and one fracture will occur every 2.9 minutes. The estimated cost of caring for those fractures will be $33.6 billion.

 

25% of people sustaining an osteoporotic hip fracture will die within a year and increased mortality risk persists for 10 years.

 

For more information on this study see www.liftmor.org

 

11 February 2015.