Whether you’re already facing bone-density problems like osteoperosis or osteopenia (pre-osteoporosis), or trying to make sure you don’t have these problems later on, regular exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your bones.
Let’s take a look at which kinds of exercise are best at stimulating your osteoblasts and building strong bones.
To apply the load-bearing principle most effectively, choose exercises that involve moving your body weight (or added weight) up and down against gravity. Examples of load-bearing aerobic exercises (which will also elevate your heart rate) include:
- Running and jogging
- Stair climbing
- Step aerobics
- Skipping (rope)
- Walking or hiking uphill
While low-impact exercises such as swimming, walking on flat terrain, and bike riding can be great aerobic exercise, studies indicate that they may not do much for your bone density. Likewise, it’s not clear whether using exercise machines that help you move your weight (like the elliptical machine) help improve bone density as well as the non-assisted exercises listed above. In some cases, especially if you have to avoid high impact activity due to osteoporosis or some other problem, using an exercise bike with added resistance can work well.
Of course, formal strength training is an excellent way to build bone density. The best approach is to use a weight heavy enough that you can only do seven to eight repetitions in good form. When you can handle 12 repetitions with that weight, it’s time to increase the weight. Also, focus on lifting slowly, using a slow count of eight, and with good technique. Lift the weight up for four counts and—this is especially important—lower it down to the start position for four counts without allowing the weight to rest on your body or the machine between repetitions. (If you haven’t been using this approach, you can expect some muscle soreness at first.)
As with any workout program, exercising for bone-building requires lots of variety. Most exercises only work one particular muscle group in one particular way. For bone-building results, try to involve as many muscles, angles and patterns of movement as possible. You don’t have to do this in every exercise session, but you should rotate to a new set of exercises every couple of weeks.
Although osteoporosis is often considered an age-related problem, the foundation for this problem is often set much earlier. Research shows that a person’s bone density at the ages of 25-35 plays a large role in determining whether her natural decline in bone density will cause problems associated with osteoporosis and osteopenia. So, don’t wait until you’ve already got problems before you start trying to manage them.
“Kids don’t lack capacity, only teachers”