A majority of people are familiar with the benefits of exercise and working out, like reducing the risk for stroke and heart disease and preventing obesity. That being said, most people do not understand the importance of routine physical activity in developing and maintaining strong bones. Physical activity can keep your bones healthy while reducing the risk of fractures.
Bones can become fragile as you age; this condition is known as osteoporosis. It occurs in men in older age and in women after menopause. Note that this bone-thinning illness puts people at a higher risk for broken bones, and this can impair independence and mobility.
Exercise is vital for building healthy bones when we’re younger, and it’s essential to maintain bone strength when we’re older.
Keep in mind that exercise works on bones in the same way as your muscles — makes them healthier and stronger. As bone is a growing and living tissue, it can change in response to the various forces exerted on it. Your bones adapt by building more cells and become denser when you exercise regularly.
However, remember that not all exercise is equal, especially when it comes to developing strong and healthy bones or minimizing the risk of osteoporosis. Also, some types may lower bone density, even in athletes. This is why it is important to choose the right exercises if you are looking to boost bone health.
Another key benefit of regular exercise is that it can improve your balance and coordination. This can become especially vital as you get older as it helps in preventing falls and slips, and the broken bones that might result.
Boost Bone Health through Exercise
The most effective way to improve bone strength is doing weight-bearing exercise. We can describe a weight-bearing exercise as any physical activity during which a person works against the force of gravity. As a result, any exercise you perform on your feet is weight-bearing since the bones in the legs support your weight.
For example, moving a dumbbell is a weight-bearing exercise as you are trying to pull its weight up but gravity is pulling it down. In addition, high-impact exercise—such as running or jumping—can help build stronger and healthier bones. This is because the sheer force of the impact will stress your bones and your body will respond by strengthening them.
Some exercises are neither high-impact nor weight-bearing, such as cycling and swimming, because there is no impact on your bones and you are not supporting your weight.
Here are the five most effective exercises that you can do to boost bone health.
According to experts, weight training is excellent because it works out or trains non-weight-bearing bones in your arms and hands. And do not worry as you need not be Mr. Olympia to benefit from weight training.
Most doctors agree that getting yourself into a regular and stable strength training regime at least twice each week is a great move for strong bones. “Resistance training is important for healthy bones as it has been proven to be essential for maintaining strong bones and preventing bone loss,” states Emilia Ravski, DO, a sports physician with Hoag Orthopedic Institute in California.
If you are falling short of the twice-weekly weight-room goal just incorporate a single move called the deadlift into your workout routine twice per week.
It is also worth mentioning that weight training with lots of repetitions and low weight can help improve bone density by up to 23% in postmenopausal women, who are more prone to osteoporosis, and about 30% in people with osteopenia, as per a small research study that was published in 2015 in the notable Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness.
Also, other studies have revealed that exercise can slow down bone loss instead of increasing bone density.
Here are two exercises that are helpful for increasing bone density in your spine and hips:
- Squats – You could do squats in several ways, from using an exercise ball against a wall and holding a small dumbbell in front of the chest (Goblet Squat), to doing a conventional barbell back squat.
- Lunges–Reverse lunges, forward lunges, side lunges, and other kinds of lunges that need you to fully engage your leg and hip musculature while balancing yourself on one leg could help increase bone density, particularly when you add weight. You may add weight using a dumbbell, barbell, or a weighted vest.
2. Jogging and Walking
Both jogging and walking will help strengthen your leg bones as they are supporting your weight. While you jog, the extra force exerted by your feet steadily against the ground would further stress the bones, strengthening them in the process.
Running appears to generate superior and lasting improvements in bone density as compared to rowing and other options like swimming or cycling. Also, it has positive benefits for the strength of the bones in the lower body.
That said, make sure you cool down and properly stretch after your run, and do not overdo it to avert various overuse injuries. Note that jogging is a high impact exercise while walking is more moderate. However, the bouncing that you get with running can load your bones.
So, if you do not want to say goodbye to jogging, then be more careful on your treadmill, in particular, if you are older or lack good balance.
A research study published in the American Journal of Public Health reveals that regular jogging can increase the femoral neck (it is the column of bone that connects the shaft of the femur and the head, just below your hip joint) density in men between the age of 20 and 59. A strong and stable femoral neck is important for the prevention of hip fractures.
During yoga, you support yourself with your legs or arms. Improved balance and increased flexibility are two key benefits of yoga, and both could help prevent falls and bone fractures, particularly in older folks.
Hip fractures are common in the elderly. They often lose balance, and trip and fall on their hip, fracturing it. Also, wrist fractures, when people try hard to catch themselves when falling, are also common.
The ancient and time-tested practice of yoga has been associated with several health benefits, and better bone health is one. One groundbreaking study indicated that yoga improved bone density in practitioners’ hips and spine; another more recent research study showed similar results.
Although making it to your yoga class at least twice or thrice a week is ideal, you could also include warrior 2 pose into your exercise routine.
To perform Warrior 2 Yoga Pose, stand with your feet about four feet apart and your right toe facing the wall and the left foot turned about an angle of 45 degrees from the back wall. Then bend the right knee deeply until the right thigh is almost parallel to the floor. While you do this, make sure you keep your glutes and back leg firm. Then raise both arms until they are parallel to the floor and gradually rotate your head to gaze over the right fingertips. Stay in this position for thirty seconds to one minute and then switch sides. In this amazing yoga pose, you are dropping into a low position and your legs, pelvis, and core get a big workout. If performed properly, warrior 2 pose is a great intense strength- and bone-building exercise.
In addition, both the Locust and Cobra pose, which work your back muscles, can preserve the health of your spine. And that is not all. Yoga sharpens your coordination, balance, concentration and body awareness all of which have long-lasting benefits.
Dancing is an excellent weight-bearing exercise, a kind of exercise that could help bones grow strong and healthy.
As per Osteoporosis Australia, both dancing and gymnastics are incredibly osteogenic, meaning they have a great capacity to build your bone mass, a primary contributing factor to help prevent osteoporosis.
Cutting a rug is an excellent high-impact exercise great for more than only your bones. Dancing is a bit more high-impact compared to walking and a bit less than jogging, and that is a great zone. That furious and repetitive feet smacking against the ground helps create forces that would strengthen the bones in your legs.
Besides that, a 2016 research study published in Circulation indicated that older people who took a thrice-weekly dance class for about three to four months showed remarkable improvement in a physical fitness exam after the end of four months.
The reason dancing is great for your bones is simple: It is an effective weight-bearing exercise. You may also support it with progressive resistance training (that gradually becomes more challenging and grueling for your body over time). Garuda and reformer Pilates are good choices for dancers. Look for a dance studio that specializes in dance technique coaching and injury management if possible.
5. Racquet Sports
Squash, tennis, and paddle tennis can improve your bone density. This is because you are stressing the racquet arm, shoulder and wrist every time you make contact with the ball. You are also working your spine and hips with all that running around when you chase down wild balls.
If you are going for racquet sports, then go for singles. You will get much more from the workout in terms of your bone health as you will run around more. For example, running around a tennis court and jumping to return those serves are high-impact and effective ways to add more strength to the bones in your legs. However, many people might not realize that swinging their racket is a great workout. The weight of your tennis racket is a resistance that would help strengthen the bones in your shoulder and arm while the jolt of a tennis ball against your racket will add further stress. Racquet sports is an excellent way to prevent shoulder conditions in the long run.
Regardless of what exercises you perform to strengthen your bones, keep in mind that consistency and variety are important. Experts recommend three to five 30- or 45-minute workouts per week. In case you are already performing cardio, add in some resistance training, whether it is weightlifting or Pilates. You’d definitely be pleased with the results.
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