Most of us know that strength training can help build and maintain muscle mass and strength. However, what many of us don't know is that strong muscles lead to strong bones.
Due to a combination of ageing (which I believe is a privilege), inactivity, or poor nutrition, our bone mass will naturally start to decrease. In fact, after 40, our bone mass starts to decrease at the rate of 1% per year. As we age, bones grow more fragile and can become more susceptible to fracture. As a result, we’re more likely to become injured after even a minor fall or incident. Decreased bone density (or Osteopenia) is also a precursor to Osteoporosis.
The risk for osteoporosis and osteopenia is higher in women because female bones typically are smaller and less dense than male bones. The risk increases at menopause, when levels of bone-bolstering estrogen fall. But men are also at risk.
The good news is, we can increase our bone density through resistance training! And even if you have been diagnosed with Osteoporosis, there is so much you can do to reverse the effects of this condition.
Bone, technically being live tissue (like muscle), changes over time and adapts in response to the force regularly placed on it – becoming denser. Studies have shown that to elicit a response and strengthen the bone, it must come under high mechanical strain — in other words, resistance training.
Barre and Pilates classes target muscle and bone strength, directly aiding in the prevention of losing more bone mass and even reversing the effects of osteoporosis.
Barre classes focus on alignment with weight-bearing exercises while simultaneously strengthening the core, spine, and legs, which are essential to any individual with Osteoporosis or its precursor, Osteopenia.
What’s more, barre workouts — with their emphasis on power and balance — enhance strength and stability. In turn, this can boost confidence, encourage you to stay active, and can help us limit the risk of falls as we age. Additionally, strength training ensures we’re better equipped to cushion a fall if/when we do!
So why are barre classes, specifically, a great way to increase bone density?
Hard on muscles, kind on joints
The controlled, body-weight focused exercises within our classes increase muscle endurance and stability — reducing the pressure on your joints, tendons, ligaments and spine. Because of this, barre classes are suitable for all ages and stages and is ideal for those who're prone to injury.
Using our body weight and different props, we safely place “stress”, or resistance, on bones, which improves bone mass density.
The classes focus on building muscle strength, which better supports our bones, improves balances, and prevents possible future injuries.
The barre holds you up
The barre is basically a glorified hand-rail, offering you added balance and stability when you move. Additionally the support of the barre allows you to move more deeply and safely into movements, without the fear of falling. A squat is a great example. Clients can hold onto the barre, and sink their bodies deep into a squat - being able to focus on technique and alignment, without fear of falling backwards.
Barre classes are a fantastic way to build muscle and bone strength, increase posture and core strength, and overall, help you build confidence in your movements.
The benefits of barre classes are multifaceted, but exercising in a way that is sustainable and in a manner that supports heathy ageing, is one of the most powerful lessons we can learn.