The Doctor is In | Strength training in young adult women prevents osteoporosis

Weakening of bones is a normal part of aging, but strength training can prevent that.


Isabella Cervantes

Jessica Gorzelitz bench presses at Magni Gym in Coralville, Iowa, on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022.

Social media has recently seen a wave of “gymfluencers,” especially young women who promote strength training. Strength training (also known as lifting) has numerous physical, health, and mental benefits. These include giving a person more confidence and increasing energy levels. Another important benefit is increasing bone mineral density, which is especially important for women.

The link between exercise and bone density

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that develops when bone mineral density and bone mass decrease as a result of hormonal changes or deficiency in calcium/Vitamin D. Women over 50 have almost a one in three chance of developing osteoporosis. Declining estrogen, the primary female hormone, during aging puts women at an increased risk. This can lead to an increased risk of a broken bone from something as minor as tripping on a curb. Even though the risk of osteoporosis increases in later adulthood, a decline in bone health can begin earlier in adulthood. A person’s bones hit maximum strength in their 20s and decline from there. Sedentary lifestyle, chemotherapy, and other medications can also contribute to bone loss. Many of these factors cannot be changed, but osteoporosis can be prevented with something more powerful and cheaper than medications: exercise.

Strength training prompts the body to deposit more calcium in bones, thus making them stronger. Strength training in early adulthood strengthens bones before aging starts taking a toll and even reduces the effects of aging and other bone-weakening factors. In addition, strength training can slow the effects of aging, low estrogen, and chronic disease on bone loss.

How to get started at the gym

The weight room — or the gym in general — can be intimidating; however, there are many ways to get started with resistance training. Many fitness centers have weight lifting classes for beginners or one-on-one personal training sessions included with a membership. YouTube is also a great source for finding workout videos. It’s important to start with low weight and work up from there. As always, safety comes first before starting an exercise routine. Always read instructions for using a new machine, or ask gym staff how to operate it before using.

If retirement seems too far away to care about creating healthy habits now, resistance training has also been shown to increase mood short-term, improve metabolism, and greatly benefit your cardiovascular health. That’s one more reason to start strength training today!

  • Amelia Hurley-Novatny, she/her/hers, 3rd year MD/PhD student

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.