In the study at hand, the two experimental groups had about 60 participants each, so it was a relatively small study. (In general, the larger the study, the more reliable the findings.) Most participants were white women; mean age was 69. The experimental intervention ran for five months. An excerpt:
In one trial, the participants were randomized to a structured resistance training program in which three sets of 10 repetitions of eight upper and lower body exercises were done 3 days each week at 70% of one repetition maximum for 5 weeks, with or without calorie restriction of 600 calories per day.
In the second study, participants were randomized to an aerobic program which was conducted for 30 minutes at 65% to 70% heart rate reserve 4 days per week, with or without calorie restriction of 600 calories per day.
The beneficial bone effect was seen at the hip but not the lumbar spine. (I’ve treated lots of hip and lumbar spine fractures. If I’m going to break one of those bones, I’d rather it be the spine.)
Thin old bones—i.e., osteoporotic ones—are prone to fractures. Maintaining or improving bone mineral density probably prevents age-related fractures. In a five-month small study like this, I wouldn’t expect the researchers to find any fracture rate reduction; that takes years.
Most mainstream articles on prevention and treatment of osteoporosis mention “weight-bearing” exercises as what you should do, like walking, jogging, tai chi, and volleyball. The current study adds resistance training to our therapeutic armamentarium. Resistance training is also called weight training or strength training.
Most elders starting a weight-training program should work with a personal trainer.