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Postmenopausal women with low bone mass can potentially benefit from heavy resistance training, according to a new study.
The aim of the Australian LIFTMOR (Lifting Intervention For Training Muscle and Osteoporosis Rehabilitation) trial, led by Griffith University and the Menzies Health Institute Queensland, was to determine the safety and efficacy of brief, bone-targeted, high-intensity progressive resistance training for patients in this group.
Generally, current exercise guidelines for osteoporosis recommend moderate-intensity exercises, despite the lack of proven efficacy of such interventions. This is due to a perceived risk of fracture from high-intensity loading - a status quo that this new study sought to challenge.
Participants were randomised to take part in twice-weekly 30-minute supervised high-intensity resistance training and impact loading sessions, or a low-intensity home-based exercise programme of the same duration and dose. Bone, muscle and fat mass were assessed at baseline, as well as functional performance, with a follow-up review after eight months.
According to results published in the medical journal Osteoporosis International, a total of 28 women completed the study, with the high-intensity resistance training and impact loading shown to improve height, functional performance and bone mineral density at the femoral neck and lumbar spine.
Moreover, there were no injuries among any of the patients, indicating that previous concerns about the safety of this exercise strategy may not be founded in fact.
The researchers concluded: "Brief supervised high-intensity progressive resistance training with impact loading is a safe and effective exercise therapy for postmenopausal women with low to very low bone mass."
A spokeswoman for Arthritis Research UK welcomed the study's findings, saying: "This is excellent news. Although it is only a small study, it backs up what we know - that weight-bearing exercise is good for bone health in older people.
"Findings from our own researchers have shown that similar levels of heavy resistance training can also help women with rheumatoid arthritis to maintain muscle mass. The key is targeting this kind of intervention at people who are prepared to maintain this kind of exercise regime."
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