Exercise is great for building muscle, but did you know it’s just as important for your bones? Your bones are made up of living tissue that grows and eventually weakens with age. In a weakened state, bones may be more prone to fracturing and can cause injuries that take time to recover. Often, the culprit is osteoporosis, a disease that affects bone strength. Research suggests you may be able to improve your bone density by participating in weight-bearing activities.1 Read on as we discuss the basics of osteoporosis, risk factors and five weight-bearing exercises you can incorporate into your daily routine to potentially reduce your risk.
As you get older, it’s not uncommon for your bones to weaken over time. In their 30s, young adults who regularly exercise are more likely to have achieved greater “peak bone mass,” or their maximum bone strength and density, than those who do not, according to the National Institutes of Health. Along with their age, family history and other risk factors, those who haven’t reached peak bone mass may be more at risk of developing osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is characterized by the body making too little bone or losing too much bone.1 In some cases, both may occur. When bones become less dense, they’re weaker and more likely to break. Under a microscope, healthy bones resemble a honeycomb. But as they deteriorate, weakened bones develop holes and gaps much larger than healthy ones.2 Women are more likely to develop osteoporosis compared to men since they tend to have smaller, thinner bones and experience bone loss due to a decline in estrogen when they reach menopause. 3,4
Aside from age, the National Osteoporosis Foundation reports several health conditions, including autoimmune, digestive, and blood disorders, may increase your risk of osteoporosis. Per the foundation, nearly 54 million Americans “have osteoporosis and low bone mass, placing them at an increased risk for osteoporosis.” The foundation estimates about one in two women and up to one in four men, age 50 and older, will break a bone due to this condition. Known as a “silent disease,” osteoporotic bone loss occurs without symptoms, so it’s important to get screened.5
It’s possible to treat and potentially prevent osteoporosis with increased nutrition, medications and exercise. One of the best types of exercises for osteoporosis are weight-bearing activities. To maintain strong bones, try incorporating these activities into your lifestyle.
What are weight-bearing activities?
Weight-bearing exercises force your body to work against gravity while staying upright. This type of movement is great for bone health, since it may help to build and maintain bone density.6 Bones, just like muscles, respond to exercise and can become stronger. When you apply force to your bones through exercise, your bone cells sense the impact and send signals to create more bone.7 Regular exercise may also help prevent future bone loss, especially in men and women over the age of 20.8 Wondering where to start? We’ve compiled five great weight-bearing activities below!
5 weight bearing exercises for osteoporosis
There are many different types of weight-bearing activities you can incorporate into your lifestyle to promote healthy, strong bones. High-impact exercises exert more force on bones, while low-impact exercises offer gentler alternatives for those who need to be more careful. If you’ve broken a bone due to osteoporosis, or are at risk of developing this disease, check with your healthcare provider before attempting any of these exercises.9
High-impact weight-bearing exercises
Want to improve your bone strength and enjoy the beauty of nature? Hiking could be the right weight-bearing activity for you. Trails are often rated easy to difficult, so you can choose one that corresponds to your fitness level. Hiking in an area that has elevation changes may do even more to improve bone strength. Inclines from downhill and uphill areas will increase the impact you exert on your bones, which in turn, may help increase bone density.1
For a lively and fun activity, dancing is the perfect fit. Not only is dancing a great way to work up a sweat, but it’s also an excellent exercise for improving cardiovascular health and potentially strengthening your bones.11 Grab your dancing shoes and check out a local class with your fitness buddy!
Jogging and running are tried-and-true weight-bearing activities that you can incorporate into your lifestyle, depending on your level of physical fitness. However, if you suffer from injuries, especially knee problems, that may be worsened by high-impact exercise, consult with a physician before starting a fitness program. For a lower-impact version, try an elliptical machine at your local gym.
Low-impact weight-bearing exercises
4. Brisk Walking
Walking is a great low-impact alternative to running. It may seem like a simple exercise, but regular brisk walks offer a tremendous amount of health benefits. In one study, brisk walking was shown to reduce post-menopausal women’s risk of hip fractures by 40 percent!12 One of the best parts about walking is it can be done anywhere, whether it’s around your neighborhood, at work, down by the beach, or at the gym.
Try yoga for a boost in your bone health while increasing your flexibility, balance and strength. Yoga’s many poses may help to strengthen the bones in different areas prone to fracture, including the hips and spine.13 If you’re new to yoga, don’t worry! Your practice can be easily tailored to your fitness level, and there’s a variety of styles to choose from.
Weight-bearing exercises are great activities to incorporate into your day, and they may even help boost your bone health! Want even more? Check out these exercises that may improve your mood and complement your weight loss efforts.
If you’re looking to create some new healthy habits to feel better, Jenny Craig can help. Contact us to book a free appointment and speak with a personal consultant today.