Fitness Articles

Strength Training: Good for Muscles, Great for Bones

Lift your way to Stronger Bones


My doctor frowned last spring as he studied the test results. "You have a little bone thinning," he said. "It's time for you to start some resistance training."

The news didn't surprise me. My grandmother was stooped by the time she was in her fifties. My mother suffers from compression fractures in her back. She always enjoyed being out in the world, and it hurts me to see her housebound now. I definitely have the pedigree for "thinning," as my doctor euphemistically put it.

Yet I defied his advice. "Resistance training? I get resistance from my children, my husband, and now from my parents. How much resistance does one person need before they develop strong bones?" I make lame attempts at humor when my feet are in the stirrups. Besides, I've always exercised regularly. I've jumped around like a spastic marionette, flinging my limbs about and wheezing asthmatically in aerobics classes for the past twenty-five years.

I reconsidered the doctor's advice when, recovering from surgery, I realized how limited I was in upper body strength. And witnessing my mother's anguish - the pain it causes her to get up out of a chair - has left me helpless, wanting both to improve my own health, and to do something in honor of her suffering. Intercession for me often takes the form of exercise - I walk two miles on behalf of a grieving friend, and I swim laps the way other people say Hail Marys. I decided weight training wasn't a bad idea.

Two mornings a week now I meet at the gym with a personal trainer. She challenges me to do things with weight machines and dumbbells that I didn’t think were possible. Miriam is a cheerleader in this bone-building project. "Okay, let me show you the form," she says, jumping easily onto a contraption designed by war criminals. "Let's go for fifteen reps." She leaps off the machine and looks expectantly at me. I hesitate for a half a second. After all, I'm paying this woman to get me in shape. She should know (…shouldn't she?) what is too much and what is just enough? I enjoy the luxury of putting my busy mind on hold and doing what I am told.

I've surprised myself, these past few months. I'm up at dawn, ready to go. Undiscovered muscle groups are announcing their presence. They sing, "We're here!" during the workout and in the pleasant soreness that comes the day after.
Continued ›

Page 1 of 2   Next Page ›

Advertisement -- Learn more about ads on this site.

About The Author

Daphne Stevens, Ph.D. Daphne Stevens, Ph.D.
Daphne is a life coach and author of Watercolor Bedroom: Creating a Soulful Midlife. For more information about her workshops and coaching services, go to

Member Comments

  • I too need to watch out for this, heredity is wonderful. But i never knew resistance training would help. Thank you for the great article and the prayers. - 6/24/2015 10:56:38 AM
  • My mother AND dad both had osteoporosis. ME, I did not want to cough up my one inch above 5 feet. But it went anyway. Last April (14) I learned of a place where the personal training team of husband and wife, would guarantee they could help me build strenght, muscle and bone. Well, I cannot get over the difference it has made in my life. I will be leaving their care in February, but they are helping me set up a continued training program I can use at my regular gym. BLESS them both! At 70 I do not intend to loose one more inch! Can hardly wait to get my bone density done next year. I am anxious to see my improvement. - 11/25/2014 1:51:00 PM
  • Great article, just had the same talk with my doctor too. Also love the Term "pleasant soreness", that is the way it feels to me. I really love feeling the muscle soreness because it reminds me that I am doing good and something important for my body. Not so sore, I can't move, but I can feel my muscle's presence. Thanks for sharing !! - 10/15/2014 12:28:11 PM
  • nice glad u found the weight room. I love my weight lifting sessions..I am off to go do one now....... - 8/20/2014 9:32:11 AM
    Very inspiring and humorous, too. - 5/14/2014 9:24:30 AM
  • I love the idea of intercessory prayer while working out. Thanks for your comments. - 5/13/2014 5:05:34 PM
    Great article
    - 3/31/2014 8:41:28 AM
  • Thanks for sharing - 10/26/2013 5:57:24 AM
  • Great article. Just the inspiration to get back to the fitness center for at least two days of strength training weekly. - 10/18/2013 6:12:05 AM
  • This article was not what I expected, but I thoroughly enjoyed it! Great motivation for me to get started on some much-needed strength training before it's too late. Thank you! - 10/18/2013 12:04:36 AM
  • Interesting article, but the picture says How to Lift Your Way to Strong Bones. I expected a program for lifting geared toward seniors or beginners. - 10/8/2013 2:00:49 PM
  • Beautiful blog !

    The last paragraph was especially touching

    We CAN Do It

    Peace, Love and Blessings - 8/20/2013 5:34:31 PM
  • CARYNJ2005
    This couldve been my story.
    - 7/21/2013 9:46:27 AM
  • For the soreness, you don't know how to breathe during exercise and a warm up or cool down that significantly reduces soreness, also helps in lung expansion to impress your doctor. Arms out to the side, while doing a toe rise, lift your arms (angel wing style) up over your head, inhaling on the way up, hold for 15-30 seconds, exhale on the way down (reverse of what you just did). I found I have 1/3 the soreness due to anaerobic reactions when I do this. (I hate his idea of diet, but part of Dr. Stillman's 15 minutes in his 14 day shape up program). And for some of us with the resistance/streng
    th training, the Hail Marys are necessary just to get us through it :) ! But to hear your praise (altho a stubborn lil cuss about what's good for you) is motivating and wonderful. Great article. - 4/10/2013 10:10:34 AM
  • I so loved the last paragraph because that is exactly how I feel, too. At 64 I am seeing many friends who are just a bit older than me succumb to various illnesses and health problems, many of which are secondary to poor nutrition and refusal to exercise. They have reached their "point of no return" where their impairments due to lack of exercise are now their reasons for not exercising. My greatest motivator to exercise is seeing it as a means of thanking God that I still can. Because I know that the day will come when I can't, I rejoice in doing what I still can. - 1/5/2013 12:07:58 PM

x Lose 10 Pounds by January 6! Sign up with Email Sign up with Facebook
By clicking one of the above buttons, you're indicating that you have read and agree to SparkPeople's Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy and that you're at least 18 years of age.