Women, Weights, and Bone Density

Note from Sarah: Here’s another spectacular post by Jason Seib.  Be sure to head on over and like Jason’s Facebook page where he’s always sharing a wealth of information. Thank you Jason!

If you have never heard me extol the virtues of lifting heavy weights, we have only just met.  For health and fat loss goals, heavy lifting and a solid paleo diet are unparalleled.  Unfortunately, women and heavy lifting is the hardest sell out of everything we preach around here.  Some of you who frequent this site and our Facebook pages are doing everything else perfectly, but you are not lifting weights and you are not getting the results you want.  If you are worried that you will get too muscular and masculine, we covered that with Katie and the Women and Muscle post.  If you are intimidated by the meat heads in the gym, we covered that in this post.  If you just don’t know what to do or where to start and don’t know any good trainers, we created Everyday Paleo Lifestyle and Fitness for you and we have had amazing success interactively teaching proper form to our members over the internet.  So if, you’re still not sure about the benefits of lifting heavy weights,  maybe I can win you over with some science!

Bone density and osteoporosis have been hot topics for women in the last couple of decades, but the only answer most women have been given is to supplement with more calcium.  Interestingly, nobody is talking about the potential causes of all this bone demineralization women are suffering and the fact that maybe neolithic foods like vegetable oils are a problem, but today we are pretending that all of you already eat the way your genome expects you to eat.  In my opinion supplements always need to be looked at with some serious scrutiny because we did not need them to be healthy for the last 2 million years, and a great many supplements that were sure to save us from ourselves and the terrible way we treat our bodies have resulted in more problems.  Calcium is no exception.  While many studies have shown that calcium supplementation provides a bit of protection against bone loss, calcium supplementation has also been implicated in an increased risk of heart attack.

What’s left?  Heavy weights!  Here comes some science.

From this Italian study:  “These results suggest that even a short-term weight training program can either maintain or improve the BMD of the femoral neck and lumbar vertebrae in premenopausal women.”  So according to this study, lifting weights has a quick return on investment when it comes to the health of your bones.

From the abstract of this review paper:  “High-intensity resistance training, in contrast to traditional pharmacological and nutritional approaches for improving bone health in older adults, has the added benefit of influencing multiple risk factors for osteoporosis including improved strength and balance and increased muscle mass.”  In other words, lifting heavy weights (high-intensity resistance training), not to be confused with those cardio classes with tiny dumbbells at the big box gyms, is better than drugs and supplements because it addresses more of the risk factors for osteoporosis.

For those of you that may be trying to ignore the word “heavy” every time you read it here, check out this study of postmenopausal women, the group at the highest risk of bone mineral loss.  Researchers had this to say: “Postmenopausal bone mass can be significantly increased by a strength regimen that uses high-load low repetitions but not by an endurance regimen that uses low-load high repetitions. We conclude that the peak load is more important than the number of loading cycles in increasing bone mass in early postmenopausal women.”  This means your 5 lb dumbbells and a lot of reps won’t do it.  You need to lift some big weights.

This meta analysis looked at 6 studies to see if aerobic (cardio) exercise had a positive effect on bone density in postmenopausal women and came to this conclusion: “The overall results of this study suggest that site-specific aerobic exercise has a moderately positive effect on bone density at the hip in postmenopausal women. However, a need exists for additional, well-designed studies before a final recommendation can be made regarding the efficacy of aerobic exercise as a nonpharmacologic intervention for optimizing bone density at the hip in postmenopausal women.”  In other words, aerobic exercise might offer a little help, but we need better data.  Hmm, it seems to me that the researchers in the resistance training studies were more confident in their results.

Currently, about 70% of the women in my gym deadlift 200 lbs or more and not one of them looks like a man or could even be described as carrying too much muscle.  If I have done my job here today, you’ll at this point be running to the gym to lift something heavy!  The one temporarily valid excuse is lack of knowledge, and we get that.  We don’t want you to hurt yourself, but there are great trainers out there if you know where to look, or you can come to EPLifeFit and we will be happy to help you ourselves.  So what do you want?  Limitations or results?

If you are a woman who already lifts weights, please share your experience in the comments.

Go forth and be awesome.


  1. rSummach says

    I have been doing Crossfit for two months now, and have been “attempting” Paleo but kept falling off track and binge eating really bad when I did. I have now (for a week only but it’s a start) gone strict Paleo and cannot believe how different I feel, the way my body feels is motivation enough. I go to Crossfit and cannot believe how much stronger I have get each WOD without the “bulky look” most females are worried about. Crossfit incorporates both weights and cardio, every WOD is a full body workout and I already know I am on the right path and don’t plan on ever turning back. I’m officially addicted and LOVE it!!

    • says

      I stumbled across this website by accident after searching for answers to a weight vs. size dilemma I have been having. I started High Intensity interval training about 5 months ago 3 – 4 days a week and began to watch the types of foods I eat but not so much the amounts. I ate veggies, fruit, white meat, and had a cheat day here and there. I immediately noticed a 5 pound weight loss in the first few weeks. However, that was it and I became frustrated and started questioning what was wrong with me. I had already been starving myself to eat less and healthy and, I had been going to the gym regularly. Why did I stop losing weight? Well, fast forward to 5 months later and hear my story.

      Recently, I realized that size (or circumference as stated on paleo) matters more than weight. Furthermore, I realized that HIT training was good, but not enough. The high intensity interval cardio sessions were speeding up my metabolism and making me hungry which in turn made me lose some weight initially and an inch or so. However, when I added HIT weight lifting to my gym routine along with the HIT training, I saw results in a miraculous measure. Just 4 weeks after adding HIT weight lifting to my plan, my body shrank from a size 10 to a lose size 8. But, here is the kicker, I did not lose more than 3 pounds. My brain keeps telling me that this is not right. I should be losing weight. My eyes tell me who cares if I haven’t lost weight, I look fabulous. So you tell me, how did I lose 2 sizes without losing weight? Now that I have read through the articles on this website, I believe it is because how you workout, i.e. heavy weight lifting and sprinting intervals, is what makes you attractive. The scale does not matter!

  2. Lindsey says

    Great post! I used to be one of the Body for Life followers that not only promoted low fat, high carbs (grains galore!) but also an exercise regime that recommended 45-60 minutes of repetitious weight lifting, focusing on specific muscles each day. While I did look “better”, I was still not achieving the results that I wanted and, quite frankly, I was frustrated and never looked forward to my workouts. Seriously, 50 minutes focusing on my arms every 3 days? Ugh. Luckily, through a series of events, I found Crossfit and, while I have never been able to workout at one of their awesome gyms (money, distance, childcare) my husband and I had already been building up our home gym. Not only that, but I was able to incorporate Crossfit style workouts at my Globo-gym. I quickly got used to people’s curious stares as I pounded out some thrusters, only to throw down the bar and jump on to the pull up bar. I love high-intensity workouts and heavy lifting because it is working several muscles all at once, each workout gives way to new personal bests that you can see/feel, workouts aren’t boringly repetitive, AND, my shoulders are awesome. But I digress. Basically, lifting heavy has done nothing, NOTHING, but make my body stronger and my stomach flatter. If people are worried about time, lifting heavy actually takes way less time than a Zumba class. The benefits are uncanny, especially paired with eating Paleo. I love that lifting heavy has changed my fitness goals from “lose weight” to “break personal record for dead lift”. Lots of benefits and a lot of help for people who are willing to look. *Awesome flex of arm muscle”. :)

    • Sarah says

      Love this, “I love that lifting heavy has changed my fitness goals from “lose weight” to “break personal record for dead lift”. Awesome!!

  3. says

    So interesting! I didn’t know that lifting heavy weights would improve bone density, but that makes sense! I’ve also been doing Crossfit for about 2 months, and I’ve been on the GAPS diet(no grains, starches, sugars, or processed foods + a big emphasis on gut healing- it’s similar to paleo) for about 4 months now, and I’ve never felt better in my life.

    I also think it’s funny when women don’t want to try something because they’re afraid of bulking up. I want to say, “Unless you’re 100% thrilled with how you look right now, why not just give it a try? If you start getting too bulky for your taste, you can change things up. It’s not like you’re going to wake up overnight with huge muscles- it takes a lot of time and work to develop those.”

  4. says

    Please, please, please, take into account the female anatomy before recommending heavy lifting for every woman. This issue is largely and conveniently ignored in Paleo fitness community blogs and haunts (people whom I love, admire, and adore). So, I say this with much respect:

    It is estimated that at least one-third of adult women are affected by a pelvic floor dysfunction. Statistics show that 30 to 40 percent of women suffer from some degree of incontinence in their lifetime, and that almost 10 percent of women will undergo surgery for urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse. Lifting heavy weights worsens PFDs by creating intraabdominal pressure that pushes down on an already compromised pelvic floor (like giving birth to your bladder) — this is particularly true for women who have had children and/or are menopausal.

    PFD is reaching epidemic proportions in women, partially because of exercise programs introduced in the last 10-20 years that are high impact or create high pressure against the pelvic floor. The tough part is that many women are embarassed, or want to pretend this problem doesn’t exist, so will train their hearts out while causing irreparable harm to their pelvic floor.

    You may have a prolapse (bladder, uterus and/or rectum) and not even know it, and your condition could worsen if you commence an intensive fitness program. Before beginning a weight training program, have your physician do a pelvic exam to determine if your pelvic floor and vaginal walls can handle that kind of pressure. Some women have stronger muscles and connective tissues in their pelvic floor while others, whether because of genetics or injury, do not. You can also work with a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor disorders to help understand what is safe exercise for you and what should be avoided.

    Unfortunately, many of the work-outs and fitness recommendations in the Paleo lifestyle are contraindicated for many women. If you already suffer from a PFD, there are many other options to keep your bones and body strong, and your cardiovascular system fit (and your bladder and uterus where they belong). Know before you lift! Ignore at your own peril (or wind up in Depends)!

    Peace and love, Carol

    • says

      I’m going to have to politely disagree with this warning. We have seen the reversal of these weaknesses through heavy lifting too many times, and never once seen heavy lifting do anything but improve pelvic floor issues. I’ll have Deb jump in on this one. Her bladder issues were completely reversed by heavy lifting.

        • says

          Hi Jason,
          I thik we will have to respectfully disagree on this one. The study you reference is from 2004, and makes no reference to the safety of heavy lifting (likely because it wasn’t part of most women’s fitness routines then). Much has been learned about PFD since then. As this information from the Continence Foundation of Australia states, “Unfortunately lifting heavy loads can place the pelvic floor under strain and some women commence strength programs for bone health, only to find that they develop pelvic floor problems as a result.”

          I’m very happy for Deb that she had a good outcome with her training. The women I work with have not been so fortunate and rehabilitation of the pelvic floor is required. Each woman will need to investigate this for herself. I simply wanted to start the conversation that this can be a concern for a significant number of women. Thanks so much and I really do appreciate your response.

          • Jason says

            Can you maybe give us a reference to some of this new research? I’m just curious because I have never even seen these situations stay the same with heavy lifting. They always improve in my experience, and now we have two testimonials to this end below. You seemed very emphatic when you asked me to change my tone (please, please, please,…) and I will be happy to look at anything you send me, but I do not ever write about anything that I don’t have experience with. At least 60% of the clients I have trained over the course of my career have been women, many mothers and many in and after menopause. It would certainly be worth my while to look at more data. Thanks.

          • A says

            I don’t have any research on hand, but I do propose a solution.

            Teach women proper body mechanics, Abdominal drawing in maneuvers, and core stabilization prior to heavy lifting. And if you have a pelvic floor dysfunction, you don’t have to live with it! See your physician or better yet a physical therapist!


      • Di says

        Hi Jason, I would love to believe that women already dealing with pelvic prolapse issues have nothing to lose and everything to gain by embarking on a heavy lifting program, but this can be truly dangerous advice for some situations. Two different, very forward-thinking (and quite brilliant gynecologists) I’ve worked with have seen dramatic increases in serious pelvic prolapse issues among patients doing CrossFit. The conversation arose when I was sharing my own struggles with prolapse as I grapple with the decision whether or not to undergo a surgical repair. More often than not, the weakness leading to prolapse originates in the ligaments and connective tissue rather than the pelvic floor per se. In other words, it is often not muscles that need to be strengthened, but may be due to ligaments that are on the verge of giving out. This kind of compromised structure can’t be strengthened through exercise, proper posture, or optimal nutrition – but it can easily be destroyed by increased pressure. I love much of your work, but PLEASE urge women, particularly those who have given birth and those in peri-menopausal or menopausal years, to get clearance from a uro-gynecologist with extensive experience in prolapse issues before starting on CF or any heavy-lifting program. The consequences of prolapsed pelvic organs are simply too serious and life-altering to prescribe a one-size-fits-all formula. In many instances, the connective tissue is just too fragile and compromised to withstand increased strain and pressure without causing irreparable damage.

    • Deb says

      I find this very interesting Carol, because as a menopausal woman, (almost 53) having four children and a history of PFD, lifting weights and reasonable working out, did just the opposite for me. As I watched my midsection “cinch up” and had built some muscle, those issues slowly decreased until gone. Lifting weights and increasing my physical capacity only made ALL of me stronger including the parts that hold up my bladder, uterus..etc. “put them back where they belong” I appreciate the respect and concern in your comments, but I’d never want to throw the baby out with the bathwater either, if I hadn’t gone this route of fitness I would be in depends now, and I’m not or even close. I hate to think of the women that may not give weightlifting a chance out of fear.

      The benefits of lifting heavy things are too many for me to list here, it’s part of our nature as human-beings. I live/love the Paleo lifestyle, best thing I ever did, and I can’t help but think it’s our lack of physical activity that’s the problem. I wonder if hundreds of years ago this would even be an issue, just like many modern illnesses/disorders that could be solved with changing one’s lifestyle.

      I am not alone, no surgery, no pills etc…I never set out to cure my PFD it was just one of the many things of my broken body that healed, got stronger, fixed itself with the most natural health and fitness approach ever… 
      Thank you,

      • Colleen says

        I have no scientific evidence to add to this BUT… I have had incontinence issues since having my son three years ago. I started crossfit in January and had some problems at first but since then I no longer have any problems. Last night I PR’d in my overhead squat and it had been longer than 45 minutes since I went to the bathroom and I didn’t have any issue. Did I also mention I’m 9 weeks pregnant. I have had huge improvments since lifting heavy things including not peeing myself in public.

        • Courtney Mickel says

          I would like to agree as well. I have given birth to 4 children~ over 10 pounds each. And my PFD existed before my heavy lifting and crossfit. I still struggle with the incontinence when jumping rope but that is ALL. And it has actually improved significantly with training. Again, I have great improvements. I can actually sneeze now without any worries!

      • Lesley says

        Hi Deb—could I perhaps contact you directly about your history of PFD and Crossfit? I recently started Crossfit and love it. But, I have a slight bladder prolapse (doc thinks because I suddenly entered perimenopause)—would love to talk more about your experience. I can be reached at lealotusgmailcom. Thanks!!

    • helen says

      I too have a slight bladder prolapse since having given birth. I have been lifting for about 3 years now, I am 51, but the lifting has not had any bad effect on my pelvic floor. I was diagnosed with osteopenia 4 years ago and my bone density has improved.

  5. Stacy M. De Vany says

    It is funny how one can expect to get 100 % results with only half the effort. I am the daughter of Arthur De Vany the authur of The New Evolution Diet and one of the grandfathers of the Paleo movement. With that being said let me explain that though I knew of the full benefits of dedicated exercise, play, randomness and eating a paleo diet until I really got on board I didn’t fully “get it”. Once on board I was abit nervous as I thought I would have alot of difficulty staying on board, let me say that with your site and book and my personal trainer I am now fifty pounds lighter and so much stronger in all aspects of my life I can’t believe I didn’t follow my Dads footsteps long ago. As far as heavy weights, love them! My cardio is never done indoors as I feel I should play hard with my kids as my form of cardio or take long walks with my kids. There is randomness in my cardio that way it never grows boring for me or my muscle memory. I would love to encourage women of all age groups to just begin with weights that challenge you no matter what poundage it might be and work your way up, before long your muscles will crave more weight. Everyone starts somewhere, Rome was not built in a day.

  6. Amy says

    I’ve been crossfitting since 2008 (had my 3rd baby in 2009 and crossfitted through almost the whole pregnancy). I’ve followed paleo for the last 2 months and upped my heavy lifting in the last year and have never felt better! I am stronger, carry less body fat (and weigh less) and I’m running faster with no pain! I just placed 2nd in my age group for a local 10k, which had over 800 people in it! I’ve had conversations with women who are afraid to lift heavy (or crossfit) for fear of getting big. I totally disagree and will always encourage women to lift harder (or Crossfit), get stronger and get rid of processed foods! Also, I consider myself a runner b/c I’ve always loved to run, but I crossfit way more than I run :)

  7. Suzanne H says

    What about those who work out at home? I don’t have the money for a gym membership. I’ve been doing mostly bodyweight exercises (using Mark Sisson’s plan). The heaviest dumbbells I have are 10 pounds, so I’ve been using those for walking lunges and deadlifts. I realize 20 pounds isn’t heavy, but combined with bodyweight exercises is it acceptable? I’ve been looking at getting some heavier ones, but they’re really expensive.

    • Jason says

      Light weights and body weight movements are better than nothing, but not really the same as what we are recommending here.

  8. Kristin says

    I couldn’t agree more!

    Two and a half years ago my husband and I joined a gym (thanks to his company’s generous benefits package, I might add!) and I decided to get a personal trainer. I had the great fortune of being matched with the perfect trainer for me, and as I knew she was the expert I made a decision to say YES to everything she told me to do. We spent almost a year together, doing intense strength training twice/week. In fact, the exercise schedule she put me on was similar to the weeks described in Everyday Paleo – two days of strength training, two active days (I discovered I loved running, and did interval training), one day with a Pilates or yoga class and two resting days.

    I knew I would get results if I trusted the process. What I didn’t expect was just how much I LOVED lifting weights! Not only did my body change, but I also began to feel much more confident, powerful and strong. It was fantastic! The great lesson I learned, too, was that a strong body is far preferable to a a number on the scale. (Although I will say it was fun to see how shocked the nurses were that I weighed what I did when I went in for an emergency surgery. They were expecting a much smaller number because of my size!)

    I’ve had a few setbacks since then, and so am in the process of rebuilding an exercise routine from scratch. While I’m taking it a bit slower this time, I have to admit that I”m really excited about strenght training again!

    PS. Shortly after my trainer went on maternity leave, I discovered that I have food allergies – to dairy and yeast. Believe it or not, the diet my allergist put me on is more restrictive than a paleo diet (meat, veggies, fruit and eggs only – no nuts, spices, seeds, condiments, anything fermented, etc.), but when I stick to it I feel amazing! That diagnosis explained 20 years of medical issues as well as why my body didn’t fully respond to what my trainer and I were doing with the food end of things. My doc recently put up a link to this blog on her FB page, and I’ve decided to slightly alter my diet (with her blessing) to paleo because I think in the long run it is more manageable than my allergy plan.

  9. Dana says

    I don’t lift weights, though I’d like to; I’m just terrible at getting my life organized, so I haven’t gotten around to starting yet. I just wanted to speak to the supplements issue. Sure, you’re going to have problems if (1) you only supplement one nutrient and (2) you don’t do your research first to make sure it’s a good form of the nutrient in question. But there’s no question they can also help. Vitamin A, for instance, has a success record in developing countries for treating women with menorrhagia (very heavy, painful periods); I’ve had good luck with it for that use myself. But I make sure it’s the natural version from fish liver oil. I just don’t think not finding liver palatable should carry the death penalty, you know? Nor cause blindness–the other condition successfully prevented with vitamin A in the developing world.

    “Our ancestors didn’t need supplements” is not much of an argument, either.

    First off, it isn’t true. There were always populations that didn’t get everything they needed from their diet; evidence of this is all over the anthropological record. Even some modern-day foragers (hunter-gatherers) are malnourished because farmers run them off the good hunting grounds, as evidenced by the foragers’ poor dental health (teeth are one of the first things to go in malnutrition!). It’s not much of a stretch to imagine that in the Paleolithic, European foragers had similar problems whenever they moved into a new geographical area. The ones who got nutrition figured out survived; the ones who didn’t became fossils before their time.

    Second off, we aren’t our ancestors. Physiologically we’re pretty much the same, but socially and culturally and *agri*culturally we face very different issues. It has never been as easy for someone in agricultural civilization to obtain quality meat if they were not in the elite classes–quality here defined as ruminant meat, which was likely the first vertebrate meat the Homo genus consumed with any regularity, and the vertebrate meat with which we have had the longest experience. Anything else in kingdom Animalia with the possible exception of arthropods is going to come in a distant second nutritionally. And now with the advent of *industrial* civilization–still based in agriculture–matters are worse, not to mention our exploding worldwide population and the toll feeding all those mouths is taking on soil fertility.

    If you want to take chances without the supplements and you honestly believe you’re getting everything you need, knock yourself out; supplementation is and must remain a personal choice. But never assume for one minute that everyone who uses supplementation is doing so out of ignorance or that people who supplement must necessarily be less healthy than people who don’t.

    A postscript: I’m aware of the claims that research “proves” people who supplement have shorter lifespans. I have my own hypothesis about these findings: someone who’s healthy is less likely to want to supplement their diet, and someone who is chronically ill is more likely to turn to supplementation. Stands to reason the chronically ill will die sooner than the healthy. We already know that to be true. Not only is correlation not causation, but we have a tendency to get causation backwards when we assume it is in play. Easy mistake to make, I guess.

    • Jason says

      Supplements like vitamin D IF you never see the light of day make sense to me. Fish oil, too, if you eat factory farmed meat and can’t avoid vegetable oils when you eat out. Magnesium also makes sense to me because it is important to proper cell function and it is not replaced when topsoil is depleted. But my stance is and always will be the same – if you don’t have a valid reason behind why you are missing a micronutrient in your diet, taking it because it is “healthy” is ridiculous.

      “First off, it isn’t true. There were always populations that didn’t get everything they needed from their diet; evidence of this is all over the anthropological record.” Can you reference this please?

      “Second off, we aren’t our ancestors. Physiologically we’re pretty much the same, but socially and culturally and *agri*culturally we face very different issues. It has never been as easy for someone in agricultural civilization to obtain quality meat if they were not in the elite classes–quality here defined as ruminant meat, which was likely the first vertebrate meat the Homo genus consumed with any regularity, and the vertebrate meat with which we have had the longest experience. Anything else in kingdom Animalia with the possible exception of arthropods is going to come in a distant second nutritionally. And now with the advent of *industrial* civilization–still based in agriculture–matters are worse, not to mention our exploding worldwide population and the toll feeding all those mouths is taking on soil fertility.” I’m not following you here. Are you saying that we aren’t our ancestors because some people are poor? It doesn’t appear that our genome has even changed by 1%, so I believe we are in fact our ancestors as far as our nutritional needs are concerned. Addressing social, cultural, and agricultural changes when it comes to nutrition is pretty much the summary of the paleo diet. Which part of this is impossible? Grass-fed ruminants is exactly what we are promoting with this diet.

      • Jenny says

        I like the idea of not taking supplements and getting it all from your food and a daily dose of sunlight. But despite eating very clean paleo food and going out into the Australian sunshine each day I am shockingly deficient in Mg, I and Vitamin D. So I supplement and it keeps me well. It is probably my coeliac gut failing to absorb as efficiently as other people’s despite being gluten-free for 13 years!

  10. says

    I’m a 70 year old woman who is 5’4″ and 125 pounds and have been working out with hand weights most of my life. Right now I use in the gym 15 pound hand weights, there are some things I do with a 20 pound hand weight. I have had bone density tests twice in the last few years and I do not have bone loss like most women my age. I attribute it to working out my entire life and staying in shape and using weights. The only thing I really take is Vit D as I live in Alaska and we get little sun up here. I never have believed in taking calcium supplements as much as my doctor suggests it. My husband and I eat the Primal diet.

  11. Shannon says

    I’ve been Crossfitting for two years at a box that emphasizes strength work, and the results are amazing. I will also add that, in my experience, Olympic lifts do wonders for your abs. I, too, have noticed an improvement in pelvic floor issues. The birth of my first son involved 5 hours of pushing and going back to chronic cardio running only made it worse. I think it helped to have a knowledgeable trainer explaining the proper form, structuring the workouts and watching me to make sure I’m doing it right. Now I can even jump rope without issues.

  12. Sarah says

    I am 100% in favour of heavy lifting and I recommend it to all my friends and clients and whoever will listen.

    BUT – for moms of younger kids & babies, for whom getting to the gym IS often an issue (gym hours, quality of childcare available, distance to gym vs. tolerance for car seat, etc.) – there is one facet of life that is a built-in way to perform weight-bearing activities ALL DAY LONG with no cost and huge benefits both for you and your kids…

    Carry the little buggers. Carry them everywhere until they can walk and then carry them when they get tired. Carry them in your arms (yay biceps!) in a carrier on your front and in a carrier on your back when they’re strong enough to sit. Carry them and squat down and pick up stuff. Do it all day, every day. That’s your bone density treatment right there. That’s what ladies were doing before strollers were invented and osteoporosis started kicking in. Put the groceries in the stroller and carry the kids. Have 2-4 of them, carry each of them for hours every day for a year and a half each, and in the absence of egregious nutrient deficiencies, you’re good for bone density. But then when they’re old enough to handle mama going to the gym for a couple hours a week, you should lift weights anyway, because that’s awesome too and it helps you get in shape for the next kiddo – or your post-kiddo years.

  13. Sarah says

    Oh, and also, anyone concerned with pelvic floor disorders should check out Katy Bowman’s site: http://www.alignedandwell.com. She has some really good info on the root causes of PFDs and how to fix them. (Hint: squatting is involved. A lot of it.)

  14. MicroK9 says

    Great post. I’m a guy whose girlfriend has completely bought into the paleo way of eating. At the young age of 30 she was diagnosed with some (not paraphrasing) “unknown” stomach condition that would require her to take pills for the rest of her life just so she could eat her healthy oatmeal breakfasts and heart friendly whole grain breads. These pills were priced at $400 a month. I convinced her to give the paleo/ primal eating a shot, and after just a little more than a month of eating that way she had no more stomach issues. It’s a been a few months now and she feels great and doesn’t need pills for the rest of her life.

    However, I have not had nearly the same success getting her to commit to working out (sprints, lifting heavy things). She understands she needs to, and I don’t nag her about it. She has admitted that she doesn’t have the motivation. She is also not strong at all. She cannot do even one pushup. I’m not trying to bag on her, but just trying to point out that she probably doesn’t want to feel embarrassed/ intimidated if she goes to a CF gym or even a regular gym. I workout at least 4 to 5 times a week (MMA and Crossfit) and try to lead by example. Any suggestions from people that lacked motivation (or from resident experts) on how to get started? On how to make it a habit and actually enjoy it?

    • Colleen says

      It took me almost a year to get the courage to walk into a crossfit gym. It can still somtimes be a battle to go. I struggle with self confidence alot! But every time I walk in those doors and do I work out a few months ago I would have said I couldn’t do I gain so much confidence in myself it’s amazing! Plus I have never noticed anyone at a crossfit gym who is there to bring others down or who thinks less of someone just because they can’t do what they do. Everyone has to start their journey somewhere even if their goal is to do one push up. I’ve seen several elderly people who couldn’t even do one sit up. Within a month they were able to do serveral. There are no excuses not to go, but you can’t force someone to take better care of themselves. They have to want to do it.

    • says

      You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. :)

      My hubby was an avid crossfitter for years and I had no interest. Until finally, I got to a point where I was fed up with how overweight and miserable I was and was willing to try anything.

      When I started back in November, I couldn’t do push-ups, pull-ups or anything. I felt like an idiot because the warm-up left me gasping for breath. Every workout I did had to be significantly scaled. The workouts were crazy hard and I was exhausted afterwards, but the feeling of accomplishing something so challenging was incredibly rewarding. It was a huge endorphin rush that kept me coming back for more.

      My coach is also very focused on maintaining a detailed log book to track performance, so I can see exactly what kinds of gains I’m making — which is also keeps me engaged.

      Fast forward 6 months. I started eating Paleo in January (thanks to a challenge at the box) and have been completely transformed.

      For me, the experience is so rewarding, it keeps me coming back for more. I just had to give it a try. As far as lifting heavy stuff goes — the idea of that sounding really intimidating and unappealing. It was one of the reasons I stayed away from Crossfit.

      BUT, once I started, I was surprised how much I enjoyed olympic lifting. Seeing gains in weight lifted and the feeling I get from nailing a lift make me love it.

      So, I would say, if she is at all interested, suggest she try it for a month. Or see if she has a friend that would want to try it with her.

      For me, the exposure was all it took to get me hooked.

      if you want, you can show her my before & after pics and see if that offers any motivation:


      I’d suggest

      If you want, you can share my

      • MicroK9 says

        Very true. All you can do is lead the horse to the water.

        I will send her the link that you posted. Thank you, very much. Here’s hoping she derives some motivation from it. 😀

        And, awesome job, by the way. Incredible transformation. I’m inspired, whether or not my GF is. 😀

  15. Oly says

    Jason, great post. As always i enjoy reading your articles, well written. You could be a writer (: also very persuasive
    I just want to pick your brain while i have a chance. I’ve been eating paleo for a while now, i don’t eat any yams (cause i hate them) and don’t really torerate potatoes very well eather. Lately i have been so tired and was actually diagnosed with 2nd stage adrenal fatique. I feel better eating higher carb, but i just don’t know what i can safely eat without putting weight on. I tried rice and buckwheat but as i understand those are not really paleo friendly foods.

    sorry for going off topic.

  16. maria says

    I do, lift heavy that is. Have done so for about, well, from January. I was never afraid of becoming bulky, I already knew that to be hogwash. What I was afraid of was not getting results.

    You see, I’ve always been the unathletic kind, the clumsy kid picked last for any team, the last to finish any race. And although I have exercised always, the results in terms of performance have been close to nonexistent. (And no wonder, considering what I have done: endless small weigths, endless aerobics and yoga, coupled with veganism)

    But now, thanks to good trainer who also subscribes to paleo nutrition and a good workout plan, I am actually loving going to the gym. Loving the challenge of seeing how much I can lift today, and whether I could already add more weights. I love that my workouts are now fairly short – about an hour total (with warm-up, and rests in between reps etc) – and I love the feeling of really having used my body afterwards. I also love the sweat and the hunger afterwards, both for more weights and for food.

    One thing I would recommend though is at least mentally tracking your progress, if you’re at all like me. For a while I thought I was making no progress, and seeing no results in my body, and thus feeling a bit down, but then my trainer reminded me of where I had started from and I saw I had been unduly harsh to myself.

    Just one quick confirmation; how short should the sets be? Is 3×10 still too much? Thanks

  17. E.F says

    Hi Carol, can you give me more information on promoting bone density without heavy weights?
    I am in my late 30s with 3 kids was several months into CF and at almost a 1.5 BW deadlift and moving up the weight on back squat & press when despite bracing of my PF when lifting and general awareness of PF health I became symptomatic of pelvic prolapse, (3 areas of prolapse, 2 interfering with my daily life). I’ve spent the last 1.5 years doing physio and seeing doctors. In the meantime I pulled the weight back to a decent but never increasing level. Despite my deep fear I am finally at the point of going for surgery and face what for me awful weight lifting restrictions for life. I was so happy with this approach to long term strength and physical ability and to think I can’t realise those benefits if I follow the recommended pelvic floor protecting program is so upsetting. That is apart from my difficulty in letting go of something that I actually love. I would love some information on what the lower level of weight training that can still confer a reasonable benefit is.

  18. Mary says

    I’m a 47 year old woman with 5 kids, all born naturally, who up to 7 years ago had PFD in that I leaked if I laughed a lot or jumped on a trampoline. Once I changed my diet to a primal diet and started sprinting and lifting weights, those problems completely disappeared. I would use the bathroom before sprinting just in case, and need to go again on returning 20 mins later. But now – no such need. My pelvic floor has been fixed – all due to being forced to hold those muscles in order to do this exercise. I really think people who say these things (that it is bad for you to do such exercise) are keeping women on a path to surgery and Depends. Most women my age are used to leaking when they laugh. But it doesn’t have to be if only they would do strenuous weight bearing exercise. Use the muscles – and they will get stronger. It’s quite basic. I can now – at my age – jump on a trampoline for some time with absolutely no embarrassing problem at all.

    • Dana says

      @Mary, this is a Fabulous testimony, thank you so much for sharing it with all of us! Here’s to “No More Leaking!!” Hooray!

  19. Yosanne Vella says

    I was diagnosed with Osteoporosis in May 2012 and I just spent a whole year lifting weights everyday and going to the gym twice a week for further one hour sessions with a personal trainer. I started with just 2 kilos and can now lift 24 kilos. My body has really toned and my muscles feel much stronger, and I feel fitter too. That was why last week I was so disappointed to see that my T-score for the spine deteriorated from -3.1 to -3.3 while my hip improved but very little from -3.5 to -3.0 but neck of hip remained -3. I’m devastated after all that effort. Should I go for chemical intervention? Clearly exercises and weights do not work. Any advice much appreciated.

  20. Sara Neilson says

    I’ve lifted weights since high school. I’ll confess that I have, many times over the years, felt more masculine and less attractive than other women, even though my build, strength and athleticism were very often admired and commented on by others. This was worse as a younger person. As I grow older I’m finding that many of the women I compared myself to then have begun to sag in places and pack on pounds, while I’ve been able to maintain and even improve my physique. I credit my lean muscle mass for helping out with this and I am now able to recognize what a blessing it is. It’s also great to now be part of a community that values strength as beauty and reinforces that instead of the other ridiculousness that popular culture does. I didn’t look like a barbie at prom, and had some insecurity about things like that at the time, but I know I will have a LIFETIME of being healthy and confident, and those past insecurities seem so silly now.

  21. Karen Olsen says

    I too have osteoporosis in the spine and hip and have had to change completely the way I eat and am now changing and working on the types of exercise I need to do to help build bone. I have been doing Pilates now for 7 years one on one lessons once a week for an hour but the weights i use are only 2kG — I like the idea of not just lifting heavy weights but doing multiple body resistance workouts. Walking also is an extremely important part. However its also important I feel that we have decent Vit D3 and Calcium – to this end I have switched to either non dairy milk (hemp or oat) or to non pasteurised cows milk. My question is this – is lifting heavy weights enough of a range of resistance exercise?

  22. says

    One thing I would recommend though is at least mentally tracking your progress, if you’re at all like me. For a while I thought I was making no progress, and seeing no results in my body, and thus feeling a bit down, but then my trainer reminded me of where I had started from and I saw I had been unduly harsh to myself.

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