Osteoporosis, which is the loss of bone density, can be a serious health risk. Women are especially prone to this condition, which increases the risk of spinal problems and broken bones. In addition, those with osteoporosis can eventually lose some of their mobility and independence if they don’t take steps to prevent and counteract the effects of osteoporosis.
Doing weight-bearing exercises has been found to be one of the best ways to prevent and treat osteoporosis. In this article, we’ll explore the potential health benefits of such exercises and detail the steps to some of these routines.
While weight-bearing exercises are great for reducing the risk of osteoporosis, there are also several other health benefits that an individual can experience as a result of doing these exercises. Those health benefits include:
- Increased muscle strength
- Better balance, flexibility and coordination
- Relief of pain
- Avoiding weight gain
- Better cardiovascular health and endurance
- Improved posture
- Maintained independence for daily tasks and activities
- Improved sense of well-being
Weight-Bearing Exercises to Try
The term “weight-bearing” is quite broad, so there are lots of options when it comes to the types of exercises you can do to help prevent bone loss. In fact, “weight-bearing” applies to any exercise that you do on your feet that works your muscles and bones against gravity. The following are just a few examples of the many weight-bearing exercises you can try to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Anything you do on your feet during the day can be considered weight-bearing exercise. Here are some examples:
- Grocery shopping
- Walking up and down the stairs
- Mowing the lawn
There are numerous sports that involve bearing weight and can help you prevent bone loss. Some of those athletic activities include:
This type of weight-bearing exercise involves the use of free weights, resistance bands, weight machines or your own body weight to increase the strength in both your bones and your muscles. It’s important to focus some of your strength training on your back, since osteoporosis can have a significant impact on your spinal column. Here are some examples of the many strength training exercises you can do to build bone strength:
Squats: Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Slowly lower yourself down and then back up by bending at the knees. Try to keep your back straight throughout. This can be done while holding weights to add more weight.
Pull-ups: Grip onto a sturdy bar with palms facing forward. Pull your body up until your chin reaches or passes the bar. Slowly lower yourself back down.
Lateral raises: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and dumbbells in each hand. Raise your arms up and out to your sides until your arms are straight out from your shoulder. Beginners can start by doing one arm at a time instead of both at once.
Bicep curls: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and dumbbells in each hand. Pull the dumbbell up by bending at the elbow. Once the dumbbell reaches your shoulder, slowly lower it back down to the starting position. This can also be done with a resistance band by holding one each and strapping your foot through the other end.
Tips To Keep In Mind
If you plan to try some of the weight-bearing exercises described above, be sure to keep the following tips in mind:
- Even though bone loss is most significant in older individuals, these exercises aren’t just for seniors. In fact, it’s most important to build bone density through the use of weight-bearing exercises during years of rapid bone growth (for most people, that’s during your teens and early 20s).
- To maximize your results as far as reducing the risk of osteoporosis and improving your overall health, try to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day during four or more days of the week. To keep your bones strong, you may need to increase the intensity of your workouts over time.
- Avoid high-impact activities which increase compression in the spine. If you plan to run or jog, for example, do so on an elliptical machine or on a padded track instead of on asphalt.
- Be careful about doing weight-bearing exercises that involve excessive twisting or bending at the waist, such as sit-ups. This can increase the risk of compression fractures.
- Be sure to eat a diet rich in vitamin D in calcium, both of which are necessary for good bone density.
Weight-bearing exercises are something that you should be doing throughout your whole life, not just when bone loss becomes an issue. The earlier you start, the better your chances are at preventing or delaying osteoporosis. If you have any orthopedic or bone issues, be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise programs. In addition, consider talking to an athletic trainer if you want to try strength training but have never done any of those types of exercises before.