Exercise for Healthy Bones

5 Steps for Bone Health – 2nd in Series


Step 2 – Exercise



According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation regular exercise is an important way to maintain bone health. 



Last week I wrote a post on the first step for bone health – Eating Right.  Step two in this five-part series concerns exercise.  Just like muscles, bone strength and density increases with exercise.  Healthier bones protect against bone fractures and osteoporosis.



If you have osteoporosis, a successful exercise regimen starts with safe and enjoyable activities that suit your degree of bone loss and overall health.  Check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.  Remember, there is no one program that works for everyone.  I find that mixing it up keeps me going better than doing the same thing all the time.  I like to walk during the week at lunch and then go for a longer hike on the weekends.  It also depends on the time of year and the weather.



Make sure your routine includes a combination of weight-bearing, resistance and flexibility exercises.



Weight-bearing Exercises


Any exercises where your legs and feet support your weight qualify as weight-bearing.  These exercises work directly on the bones in your legs, hips and lower spine to slow mineral loss.  If you have osteoporosis, you should avoid high-impact activities such as running, jumping, or jogging.



Sample exercises include:

  • Walking
  • Dancing
  • Gardening
  • Hiking
  • Low-impact aerobics

Resistance Exercises


Any activity that uses muscular strength to improve muscle mass, strengthen bones and reduce mineral loss is considered resistance exercise or strength training.  Compression fractures resulting from osteoporosis often lead to a stooped posture and increase pressure along your spine, resulting in even more compression fractures. Exercises that gently stretch your upper back, improve your posture and focus on strengthening the muscles between your shoulder blades can all help to reduce harmful stress on your bones and maintain bone density.



Examples of resistance or strength training include:

  • Free weights
  • Weight machines
  • Resistance bands
  • Water exercises (water acts as the resistance)

Flexibility Exercises


Stretching is always very important as part of an overall fitness program.  It’s important for joint and bone health by reducing pain and stiffness, and supports good posture.  It is best to do stretching once your muscles are warmed up to prevent injury, at the end of your workout for example.  Always stretch slowly and gently, without bouncing.  I find I need to stretch my back about every 10 minutes or so when I am walking or hiking and then at the end.  I can usually walk longer this way and feels great.



Make Exercise Your New Healthy Habit


Choose the activities that you find most enjoyable.  This way you are more likely to stick with it.  Set a goal.  When you achieve your goal, reward yourself!  I like to use a massage at the spa as a reward – it’s a great motivator!



What are your favorite activities?  What do you do to stay motivated? 




Check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program, especially if you already have osteoporosis, as you may be at risk for fractures. Your doctor can help you determine the best exercise program suited for you.