Bones Stronger than Steel [What You Need to Know About Osteogenic Loading]

Is it possible to have bones stronger than steel? Absolutely! In fact, healthy bones ARE stronger than steel, even though they are 50 times lighter. Believe it or not, one cubic inch of healthy bone is capable of bearing a 19,000-pound load. That’s equivalent to about 5 standard pickup trucks!

So what can you do to KEEP your bones stronger than steel? Osteogenic loading.

Chances are you’ve never heard the term osteogenic loading. But since bones are our thing here at StrengthX, Asheville’s esteemed bone health clinic, we’ve got you covered.

What is Osteogenic Loading?

To break the term down, let’s start with the first word. Osteogenesis is the biological process of bone formation, and it occurs throughout the life cycle, not just when new bone is being formed in the fetus or after a fracture. Healthy bones are in a perpetual state of osteogenesis, and that’s a good thing. It’s how the body repairs and heals broken bones, and it’s also how the body builds and maintains bone strength, thus reducing the risk of fractures. 

So what is osteogenic loading? It is what has to happen in order for the process of osteogenesis to occur in humans outside the womb.

In short, the weight that is significant enough to compress the bone matrix is the catalyst for building new bone. An adequate load tells the body that the bones need to be strong enough to carry the ongoing load. This prompts the body to provide the necessary minerals for osteogenesis.

As we covered in a previous blog post, the load needs to be about 4.2 times the weight of your body in order for osteogenesis to occur. This can be done with strength training exercises and activities like jumping, dancing, and running. Essentially, all the things we do for building muscle also help to build bone.

What Types of Activities Induce Osteogenic Loading?

While walking and other everyday activities do put some load on the bones, it’s not enough to induce osteogenesis. Remember osteogenesis requires a pressure of 4.2 times your body weight.

Here is a list of activities with their approximate multiple of body weight (MOB) numbers:

  • Swimming: 0 (Water actually decreases the load)
  • Standing: 1
  • Brisk walking: 1-2
  • Running/jogging: 3-4
  • Power jumping: 4+
  • Resistance/strength training: 4-10 (depending on impact)

Since it’s the compression of bone that induces osteogenesis, here are a few specific ways to make it happen:

  • Hopping (on one or two feet)
  • Stomping
  • Skipping
  • Dancing
  • Jumprope 
  • Boxing/kickboxing
  • Biking uphill
  • Other activities that involve moving the body against resistance. 
  • Most outdoor sports

If your bones or muscles are in a fragile state or you’re concerned about the possibility of injury, we have a wonderful and fun protocol here at StrengthX that includes our state-of-the-art bioDensity machine, which can provide you with a safe, measurable, controlled approach that offers the benefits of high-impact activity minus the risk involved in heavy lifting and jumping. It also allows us to keep track of progress and the positive results you are getting from the practice.

Other Factors

Keep in mind that osteogenesis requires bioavailable minerals. Calcium is key but there are other important ones as well, including magnesium, boron, phosphorous, copper, iron, potassium, and zinc. Vitamin D is also essential. So, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting enough of these minerals in your diet or are supplementing with them in addition to engaging in the proper osteogenic loading exercises if you’re serious about keeping your bones stronger than steel.

A diet that is rich in green vegetables and other whole, natural foods is ideal. Sugar and processed foods can wreak havoc on the bones as well as the rest of the body.

Who Should Be Doing Osteogenic Loading Activities?

EVERYONE should be engaging in some type of regular osteogenic loading exercise because strong, resilient bones are important for us all. Children (and adults) who engage in regular outdoor play or sports are usually covered for getting enough osteogenic action, but it can be more of a challenge for adults, especially for those who work in fields that don’t include these types of activities. If you are in that category it’s a good idea to think about ways you can incorporate some of the activities listed in the section above into your daily routine.

Studies have shown that twice-weekly resistance training increases bone and muscle mass. So don’t think you have to be a gym rat or engage in strenuous activity for hours a day. ANY amount of exercise is better than nothing. Whatever the case, our recommendation is to find a routine that you enjoy and do it consistently. Fun is key. It’s also good to keep it challenging.

Summary

Bones are pretty amazing. They are actually stronger than steel! And if you want to keep it that way, you need to engage in osteogenic loading because that’s the process that tells your body to keep the bones dense and strong.

Osteogenic loading occurs when bones are compressed enough to signal the body that new bone material is needed.

Any activity that presents the body with resistance to overcome contributes to the process of osteogenesis and helps to keep your bones healthy and at lower risk for fractures and other related injuries.

EVERYONE should be mindful of getting enough osteogenic loading in their regular routine. It’s not as difficult as you might think and it certainly does not have to mean spending hours and hours at the gym. Get creative, and have fun! And if you have any questions or concerns, we’re happy to be your go-to guide for keeping your bones stronger than steel.

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