We’ve learned why you need to care for your bones. We know how the DXA scan can help you stay informed about your bone health and identify your risk for osteoporosis. Now we’re all blending our green smoothies, drinking more milk and getting our vitamin D from time in sun. But exercise, weight-bearing exercise, plays an important role in bone health.
A quick Google search of weight-bearing exercises can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re just getting started. When it comes to your bones, you need impactful activities that will leave lasting results, preventing fractures and falls now and later in life. Here are seven exercises designed to build your bone density—and have a little fun while you’re at it!
1. Hiking: The impact made when your feet hit the ground—whether on the treadmill or on a path through beautiful terrain—translates to increased bone density. The bone density benefits of hiking are even higher than walking, as you’re often heading uphill or sloping downward, putting more resistance on your hips. Your hips get the bone boost and they’re where it matters most, as more than 300,000 adults 65 and older are hospitalized each year for hip fractures.
2. Dancing: Get your groove on and take advantage of one of the most enjoyable weight-bearing exercises you can find. The high impact movements on the dance floor, plus the quick turns and full-body motions make boogying great for your bones. Join a dance class, try Zumba at the gym, or even just bop around in your kitchen while making dinner. When it comes to bone health, any dancing is good dancing.
3. Jumping Rope:Another great way to build bone density is to do small amounts of high-impact activity most days of the week. Keep it simple—even just five to 10 minutes a day can do the trick. Jumping rope is an easy activity you can do almost anywhere, and the short jumping motion packs a powerful punch for your bone density. Just toss a jump rope into your bag on a work trip—who needs the hotel gym anyway? However, be sure to steer clear of jumping rope if you have existing joint pain or poor balance.
4. Tai Chi: A form of ancient Chinese martial arts, tai chi has gained recent popularity for its numerous health benefits, including stress reduction. It’s graceful and self-paced, focusing on a series of focused movements accompanied by deep breathing. A study found that tai chi could slow bone loss in postmenopausal women when they practiced five days a week for a year. Plus, the practice helps improve balance, coordination and postural stability (all of which help prevent falls and fractures).
5. Brisk Walking: You can’t beat an exercise that can be done anytime, anywhere and is free! Walking is associated with reductions in hip fracture risk of 40 to 60 percent and it’s been shown to slow bone density decline related to age. But go long—longer strides, faster pace, and longer walks in general are more beneficial for your bones and your overall health.
6. Tennis:Tennis is a hard hitter when it comes to strengthening your bones. The quick turns and spins paired with the weight-bearing jumps on the court bring players lots of bone benefits. In tennis players, bone gain has been shown in the playing arm, hips and spine—all of which are home to especially vulnerable bones. Start with the occasional racquetball match at the gym and sharpen your serve. Then add in the social component of a local tennis league and believe us, tennis will be your new favorite weight-bearing sport.
7. Yoga:While research results have been mixed on a direct connection between yoga and bone density, key yoga movements work the bones most susceptible to fractures due to osteoporosis. Standing poses (think Warrior I and II) strengthen the large bones like hips and legs, while Downward Dog works the arms, shoulders and wrists. Cobra and Locust massage the spine. The practice of yoga sharpens your coordination, improves your balance and promotes body awareness, all of which can prevent falls.