Managing your Muscles / Building your bones


© Dr. Clióna Murphy

Managing your Muscles / Building your Bones



Ask yourself –

What do I want from reading this ?


And then Tell yourself you’re going to pick some bit of information or one thing from this blog  and use it in your daily life.

Remember – where focus or concentration goes -energy flows.


You are never too young or too old, too fit or too unfit, to think about managing your muscles and bone well-being.


This blog is not intended to make anyone feel bad about themselves for not exercising, for being out of shape or being overweight.

I’ve been that person. Multiple times!


The aim of this blog is to cultivate an awareness of our ability to manage our bones and muscle and use our bodies to improve our heath.


This article is about what you and I can do for ourselves to try to …….


  • Prevent Muscle loss (Sarcopenia)
  • Decrease adiposity (Fatty tissue)
  • Improve lean muscle (💪🏼)
  • Reduce our risk of diabetes
  • Prevent Falls as we get a bit older
  • Decrease pain in osteoarthritis
  • Improve function in osteoarthritis


…… we go through life.


Let’s go .         


Obviously these above issues are multifactorial (a few things together can lead to it or them). Genetics, environment, other co-morbidities (other illnesses) can lead to the above issues and can effect of abilities to manage our health.

Rather than just telling you to do exercise because its good, I am going to provide you with the evidence concerning using your musculoskeletal system, to aid the above mentioned issues.

Why Muscle?

Your muscles and bones are alive !

And like all living creatures they need to be stimulated to grow and become stronger. Just like muscle, the skeleton need exercise to be strengthened. Exercising is a great way to do this. In particular, weight training which is also known as  resistance training. Resistance training can also be carried out using your own body weight.

Therefore, for example bone mineral density would be higher in body builders, people who do judo, as well as rugby players, gymnasts and tennis players amongst the many types of sports that promote healthy bone .


The more muscle on your body the more energy required to maintain it. i.e. you burn more calories just being someone that has more muscle.

Also muscle remodelling over the next 72 hours after some training requires energy- again calorie burning !

So more muscle- more calories being burned AT REST.


Sarcopenia is the name given to the loss of muscle mass.

Starting from our twenties to our thirties we lose a certain amount of muscle every decade.

This is increased by inactivity and by weight gain and periods of intercurrent illness .

It has been estimated that sarcopenia can result in a reduction of 40% of ones skeletal muscle mass between the age 20 and 70.





Bone Mineral Density


This is a term used to describe the strength of bones. Values related to it a are used to determine risk of fracture and thereby the need to supplement Calcium into your diet.

Resistance Training such as using weight doing certain exercises, or different exercise machines, or even using your own body weight has been shown to improve you Bone Mineral Density.

It increases bone mineral density at the femoral head (hip) and lumbar spine (lower back) in both young and old.

Resistance training programmes regardless of intensity and frequency are effective at improving bone mineral density of the proximal femur (hip) and lumbar spine lower back. See that study



Help Osteoarthritis


Exercise for Osteoarthritis


This Cochrane review (Fransen et al., 2014) found that land-based therapeutic exercise programmes can reduce pain and physical function among people with symptomatic osteoarthritis of the hip. The types of physical exercises described from the variety of studies were deigned to improve muscle strength (resistance training), and improve range of joint motion and aerobic capacity.

Read more about that  here




One of the mechanisms is that supervised physio treatment programmes improve the mechanical environment and reduces joint loading on an arthritic hip. The bodies biomechanics are improved !



Adiposity (Fatty Tissue)


  • Reduces abdominal adiposity.

Adipose tissue or  fatty tissue was previously thought to be just a passive area of the body where fat was stored. But now we know it releases proinflammatory cytokines that are involved in the development of obesity, and prediabetes and diabetes.

Click here to read more.




Aerobic Exercise such as walking and running ….


Walking and running is great for prevention of diabetes, hypertension, obesity etc. Do not abandon aerobic exercise such as running and walking ! Adjust with osteogenic (bone making) modifications, such as interval exercises such as HIIT and walking or  running downhill thought to play a role in altering the load on your bones and therefore improving osteogenic properties.

The protective effects of exercise of walking in women were seen with as little as 1 hour of walking per week.


Reducing Risk of Diabetes

Resistance training has been shown improve insulin resistance ( one of the issue with type 2 diabetes).

I’m not going to go too deep into this today but.

As mentioned Skeletal muscle- makes up 40 % of body weight.

Skeletal muscle is involved in the metabolism of glucose (sugar/carbohydrates). Muscle loss and increased fat leads ( through a variety of mechanism) decreased ability (for a variety of reasons) to manage body sugar resulting in weight gain and diabetes eventually.

Muscle resistance increases muscle cross sectional area, increases lean body mass, and results in improvements in metabolic properties related to muscle.  Muscles can only take up a certain amount of glucose for conversion to glycogen , thereafter for extra glucose goes to fat cells to fatty acids.

Resistance training so muscles are emptied of their stored energy (glycogen) then glucose (sugar) will store preferentially in your muscle cells and not your fat cells  and so easier to access and break down.




YOGA and Tai- Chi

Yoga builds core strength and balance which prevents falls builds muscle strength. You don’t have be doing handstands on rocks on the Cliffs of Moher to get the benefits !🙏🏻🧘‍♀️


One study reported that yoga was “a safe and effective means of improvement in bone mineral density ”. This study was carried out in the US found increases in spinal bone mineral density with yoga practice. However, the study in questions isn’t a great quality study in terms of how people were recruited and compliance within the study etc. Having said that I’m a big yoga fan. You can about this study via a Harvard magazine.


Tai Chi has been shown to be help with balance and co-ordination.. These are issues are at the core of falling. In fact, Tai Chi was shown to be more effective than resistance training at reducing falls in those with Parkinsons disease. Here the link to that 




If we help our muscles and bones thrive now (whatever age we are) we can decrease our risk of falls, frailty, diabetes, osteoporosis, fractures that may occur to us when we get older.



Every day – what can you do to get started ?

  • Get an APP on your phone – A trial from NUI Galway called the SMART move trial evaluated the effectiveness of a smartphone app and found increases in physical activities of those that had the APP.
  • Encourage yourself with evidence. Here is a great link for guidelines for exercise for aged 19-65 Click here !

Exercise 19-65 !

  • As above ! Irish website.

Get Active Ireland Website

  • Have fun – Doesn’t have to be serious- turn on some of your favourite Britney Spears tunes and dance around the house a few times a week. Get used to moving more.
  • Walk anywhere and everywhere
  • Take the stairs !
  • Ask around – know of any free exercise classes?
  • Is there a community gym ? Is there a free work out area in your town ? wooooo!
  • Cycle- bike ! Are you eligible for the cycle to work scheme?
  • Use resistance bands, cheap and easy to use!






Resistance Training without weights

Examples without ever having to step into a gym 😉 

  • Press-ups!
  • Going up and down stairs.
  • Going to from sitting to standing ( you are literally lifting your body weight up).
  • Mountain climbers.
  • Calf raise- from standing slowly rise up on the toes and keep knees straight, come back down and back up.
  • Side planks.
  • Stuff you can do in your bedroom- squats, press-ups, burpees.
  • Arm circles.


A bit older and not confident…

Start low and slow.

Low impact and low weights and slow pace.

  • Toe and Chair stands from standing slowly rise up on the toes and keep knees straight, come back down and back up. Stand behind a chair and hold onto the it for support then slowly raise up on tip-toes. Hold for a moment and then lower heels down and repeat a few times.
  • Low Impact such as yoga, pilates, tai chi.
  • A programme has started in Cork, Ireland, can be found here here called Better Balance, Better Bones. It is being delivered by exercise professionals who have been trained by HSE physiotherapists. In most counties there are private resources and some not-for-profit ones for like this one that are tailored to older adults.




Difficulty, Perceived Difficulty, Lack of Knowledge



When I tell people that have pain related to osteoarthritis that exercise and physio therapy is a means of reducing their symptoms and preventing progression, they look at me like I’m …

  • Way too young to be a doctor and know what I’m talking about
  • Crazy to suggest it !



There is a perceived complexity to the thought of engaging in weights or resistance training.

I might injure myself, it’s too painful, I’m not able for that, it’s for younger people, it’s for older people, it’s for body builders, it’s for men, it’s for women.

And all these concerns are valid.

Make sure if you haven’t done any resistance training before to join a class where they show you how at your pace. Or attend  a sports physio/physical therapist for some advice. Physio/Physical therapists are worth their weight in gold for the help they can provide in preventing and treating injuries.

YouTube videos can be great to begin with.






Exercise with colleagues, or strangers in a new class rather than friends. Friends are great but generally for having emotional support, for chats, fun, drinking beer , sipping wine.

Sometimes we need strangers (new friends!)  to encourage us along, and vice versa.

You don’t have to be pumping weights all day every day. Low cost weights can be got in most sports stores, big supermarkets and even ‘pound’ shops.





This a blog. It is not a prescription. It is a review of the benefits of certain exercises and encouragement to get active.  Please seek medical advice prior to attempting new exercise if you have medical problems or concerns.  Please seek help from exercise professionals or Physio/Physical Therapist on the types of exercise that would suit you best.


Copyright Dr. Clióna Murphy ©









  1. Cyrus Doctor


    Been a doctor for 10years and hadn’t been taught this stuff properly. Some great tips here and information here.

    This should be taught in medical school to help make doctors understand more about health and wellness rather than just how to treat things when they go wrong.

    This blog is a must read for every healthcare pro and all med-students!!

    thanks!! keep em coming

    1. Post

      Thank you Cyrus for the review. Thanks for taking the time to read. I’m going to conduct a poll via the i vitamin life Facebook page to help decide the next post !

  2. Jane

    This is a great blog. It’s so informative, straight forward and very easy to read.
    Looking forward to reading more!

    1. Post

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