The reasons for exercising are significant and varied, including prevention of diseases, stress reduction and weight-loss. However, exercising for strong bones should also be high up on that list. As we age, our bone mineral density decreases and the risk for osteopenia, early low bone density, increases. Exercising regularly can build more cells and strengthen bone structure.
Working against body-weight resistance and lifting weights not only aid in muscle growth and increased strength but it also helps you build bone mass.
These exercises work your muscles and bones against gravity in an upright position. Weight-bearing exercises cause the bone to adapt to the applied stresses, building more bone cells and thus becoming stronger. Exercises can be high or low impact depending on your fitness level and current health status. High-impact activities include running, skipping rope, hiking, stair climbing and court sports such as tennis and basketball. In contrast, low-impact exercises are less intense and may be suitable for inexperienced exercisers and people with injuries/health conditions. Examples of these exercises include walking, using the elliptical at the gym or low-impact fitness classes or DVDs which avoid jumping. Aim to do weight-bearing exercises three to five times per week for 30 to 60 minutes per session.
Working against body-weight resistance and lifting weights not only aid in muscle growth and increased strength but it also helps you build bone mass. As muscles contract and relax with exercises, load is transmitted to the bone by tendons, thus making your bones stronger. Examples of these exercises include push-ups, tri-dips, lunges, squats, bicep curls, upright rows and medicine ball throws. Aim to do resistance training exercises three times per week on non-consecutive days.
Not all exercises are great for building bone mass and thus you should discuss what is right for you with your physical therapist and/or doctor. Cycling and swimming are great for cardiovascular health but they offer little regarding an increase of bone strengthening because they are non- weight-bearing. Furthermore, if you have osteoporosis, you should avoid exercises that put you at risk of falling. Osteoporosis weakens the bones thus falls could incite fractures, most commonly of the hips, wrists or spine. Spinal twisting and sit-ups should also be avoided due to the compressive forces on the spine.
Have you considered your own bone health? What types of exercises do you do to keep your own bones strong? Please share in the comments below!