Muscle strength is a requirement for building and protecting your bones. The positive stress that muscles place on bone stimulates new bone development, as described by Wolff's Law.
That alone makes strong muscles an essential tool for increasing bone strength. Today we'll look at an even more direct way that certain muscle groups prevent fractures. The studies we'll analyze next prove the importance of lower body strength. We also share with you easy ways to strengthen your legs to prevent falls and protect your bones.
Studies Show Leg Strength Is Linked To Falls
A 2014 systematic review of studies on the effectiveness of muscle-strengthening exercises for preventing falls in the elderly examined 357 articles published over a decade. Of those articles, they found 46 studies with high methodological quality worthy of consideration.
Altogether, the studies involved 3795 elderly participants who engaged in a program to strengthen muscles groups in the lower body, including those surrounding the hip, knee, and ankle joints. The conclusion of the review is as follows:
“The literature currently shows that increasing lower limb muscle strength is effective for reducing the number of falls. However, the studies analyzed in this review did not limit themselves to muscle strengthening interventions. Many of the studies combined exercises with balance training, activities of daily living (ADL) training, gait training, and muscle stretching.”1
This broad collection of data shows that strength, balance, and flexibility are critical for preventing falls.
The next study was conducted by the Division of Applied Biomedical Research at King's College London. The researchers cross-examined groups of different ages with different histories of falls to compare the risk of falling to the strength, power output, and symmetry of leg muscles.
The participants included 44 healthy young people, 44 older “non-fallers”, and 34 older people who had a history of falls. In each group, the researchers measured the strength of knee and ankle muscles and leg extension power. The group with a history of falling had only 85% of the muscle strength of the group that had never had a fall.
The study found that asymmetry of strength and power are not associated with age or fall history, but that muscle power was the most relevant measurement of fall risk.
The precision of the study allowed the researchers to reveal “the significance of small changes in strength in individual muscle groups.”2 This study isolates a particular outcome of exercise– increased muscle strength– and proves its ability to prevent and reduce falls.
Another review study, titled “Falls and Their Prevention in Elderly People: What Does the Evidence Show?” analyzes studies that identify causes of falling and interventions aimed at reducing falls.
Across the studies, they found that weak leg muscles were the best predictor of a fall. Participants with a weak lower body were four times more likely to fall. Exercise programs aimed at increasing leg strength consequently are the most important intervention. Both group exercise programs and at home programs were found to be effective at improving strength, balance, and flexibility- resulting in fewer falls.3
All three of these studies arrived at the same conclusion: a program of regular exercise increases and maintains lower body strength, which prevents falls (and the fractures they may cause.)
Three studies show that muscle strength in the legs and lower body is directly linked to the likelihood of falls and that exercise programs that increase strength reduce the risk of falls.
Exercises To Build Lower Body Strength
These three at-home exercises are simple to do and highly effective for building leg strength, which has been scientifically proven to prevent falls. Each exercise in the following links is accompanied by useful information about what each exercise accomplishes and why they are so important for building bone and preventing fractures. The only equipment required for any of these exercises is a chair.
- Single Leg Instability Pump – this is a simple standing exercise that targets your core and legs, promoting stability, strength, and balance.
- Three Way Femur Builder And Balance Improver – this exercise works each leg three different ways, covering multiple angles and ranges of motion. This full-range approach strengthens the femur and thigh muscles to enhance gait, coordination, and balance.
- Seated Abs And Leg Strengthener – This exercise is done sitting down, but it gives a thorough workout to the muscles of the legs and trunk- including the abdominals, hips, and thighs.
Try adding these exercises to your workouts, or make them a part of your daily routine whenever you have a moment . The increase in strength and balance you'll experience is a proven way to avoid falls and fractures.
Use the three exercises found at the links above to increase lower body strength and balance to prevent falls and fractures.
Build And Protect Your Bones
As the studies reviewed today affirm, exercise (and especially exercise that strengthens the legs and lower body) is a critical intervention for reducing falls- and thereby reducing fractures. Remarkably, the same exercises will also increase your bone mass by stimulating the creation of new bone.
If you'd like to learn more bone-targeted exercises that you can practice at home, then try the Save Institute's exercise training system: Densercise. It includes full-body at-home exercises specifically designed to improve bone health, an online video collection that demonstrates the moves, and an eating guide to ensure you're supporting your workouts with adequate nutrition.
Every time you workout, you get a little stronger. Keep at it, and the positive changes to your strength, balance, and posture will soon have a noticeable impact on your day-to-day life!
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