According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, “Bone is living tissue that responds to exercise by becoming stronger.” The NOF says that bones are similar to muscles in that they get stronger and denser when you make them work. “Work for bones means handling impact, the weight of your body, or more resistance,” according to the NOF.
The American College of Sports Medicine echoes these findings, saying “Evidence shows that exercise may help build and maintain bone density at any age.” Regular resistance exercises, such as lifting weights, two or three times a week, have been proven in studies to increase bone density. These strength training exercises help stimulate bone formation, and the preservation of calcium, in the bones. For example, when you do a bicep curl, the pressure of muscles pulling against the bones stimulates the bone building process in the arm.
The NOF not only credits weight bearing activity for preserving bone density, but also impact exercises that move against gravity while standing upright, stating, “Weight-bearing and high-impact exercises are best for building bones in people who do not have low bone mass, osteoporosis or are frail.”
Some of these exercises include, dancing, high-impact aerobics, hiking, jogging, jumping rope, stair climbing and tennis. Lower impact exercises such as walking, hiking, using the elliptical training machines and, low-impact aerobics can also help to build bones and are safer for people who cannot do high-impact exercises.
Contrary to the belief of many, bicycling and/or indoor cycling, deep-water walking, stretching and flexibility exercises, swimming and water aerobics do not help build bones. This does not mean you should not continue to do these exercises as they’re good for your heart and overall wellbeing. It is important to vary your activity and include some of the above bone strengthening activity as well. If lifting weights is too much to begin with, I suggest starting with a resistance band, resistance machines or functional movements such as getting up and down from a chair or heel raises. Mind/Body exercises such as Yoga and Pilates can help with stability and balance. These exercises can help reduce the risk of falling and breaking a bone. As always, it is important to consult your physician about any contraindications you may have to certain exercise regimens.
Look for more articles by me on how exercise can prevent specific diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis and breast cancer.
Joanne Sgro is a Television Fitness Expert, Certified Personal Trainer and Sport Nutritionist. She is Certified in Pilates, Pre-natal/Post-Partum, Yoga and Senior Fitness. She specializes in Weight Loss, Post-Rehab and Post Cancer Training. Joanne's fitness plans and recipes are available globally on her website www.fitnessanswer.com. She resides in the Phoenix, AZ area with her fiancé, where she runs her personal training business, Fitness Answer, LLC.
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