4 good reasons for middle-aged men to lift weights

Amanda Davey

Regularly lifting weights can reverse bone density problems in middle-aged men by enabling bone growth, a study has found.

The 12-month randomised trial in healthy men who had low bone mass (osteopenia) of the hip or spine, found increases in bone mineral density after 6 months of weight-lifting or jump training.

Maintaining bone mineral density as you grow older is important to avoid osteoporosis, where the bones become brittle and fragile leaving you susceptible to fractures. And it's just as important for men, as it is for women.

The researchers say good reasons for middle aged men to lift weights include:

  1. Bone mineral density (BMD) is likely to increase after 6 months.
  2. It is one of the most efficient ways to increase BMD at the hip.
  3. Increasing BMD by 5% increases bone strength by 65%.
  4. Osteocalcin, a protein that indicates bone formation, is likely to increase significantly after 12 months.

However, only certain types of weightlifting do the trick, say the researchers. Squats, deadlifts, lunges and the overhead press are best.

“We specifically chose exercises that would load the hip and the spine,” says lead researcher, Dr Pam Hinton, an associate professor and director of nutritional sciences graduate studies at the Missouri-Columbia University.

“The intensity of the loading needs to increase over time to build strength,” she says.

Dr Hinton and her team found bone mineral density measured for whole body and lumbar spine increased after 6 months of weight-lifting or jump training for a minimum of an hour a week. This increase was maintained at 12 months.

However, hip-bone density increased only among those who did weight training.

“This study is novel because it is the first to demonstrate the efficacy of exercise-based interventions to increase BMD [bone mineral density] in middle-aged men with low bone mass who are otherwise healthy,” write the researchers in the journal Bone.

They say a small increase in bone mineral density goes a long way. For example, increasing BMD by 5% increased bone strength by 65%.

Amanda Davey