Five bone-strengthening exercises

Reduce your risk of osteoporosis with these five bone-strengthening exercises.

older woman doing bone strengthening exercises

One of the best things for osteoporosis is exercise. Not only because it helps to strengthen bones, but also your muscles, which help to protect your bones and improve your balance, so you’re less likely to have a fall and risk fracturing your bones. But not just any exercise will do. It needs to be weight bearing.

Weight-bearing exercise simply means your feet and legs are supporting your weight, so you’re usually standing while performing the exercise. As the force of gravity puts stress on your bones during your workout, your bones build more cells. For this reason, swimming and cycling, while good for your heart health, are not the best forms of exercise for boosting bone density. So here are five bone-strengthening exercises that will benefit you.

1. Lift weights
Lifting weights, using resistance equipment (or even your own body weight) will help to build bone and muscle mass at the same time. A full body workout at least twice a week (with at least a day’s rest in between) is recommended by health professionals. To avoid injury, technique matters. So if you’ve never done this type of exercise before, seek training and guidance from a fitness/personal trainer.

2. Dance
Dancing is usually touted as a great cardio exercise, but it’s also great for your bones, since you need to be on your feet to groove to music. So if you enjoy dancing, why not take up a couple of classes in your favourite style of dance? Just do it for the fun of it, rather than taking it seriously. That way, you are more likely to attend classes regularly.

3. Walk briskly
Your bones will benefit from brisk walking. So if you're able to walk at a fast pace – even for short periods – it’ll be worth your while. You could try interval training for 30–45 minutes, where you alternate walking as fast as you can for two to three minutes with a slower pace for another couple of minutes. If you're worried about uneven footpaths or other tripping hazards, try walking on a treadmill.

4. Take an aerobics class
High-impact classes will strengthen bones more than low-impact classes, but if you have severe osteoporosis, low-impact exercise is a safer choice. Always seek you doctor’s advice before performing any exercise for the first time, to make sure it is suitable for you.

5. Do yoga
Yoga can help to strengthen bones, as you are holding many poses while on your feet. Just ask your yoga teacher which type of yoga is best for boosting bone strength. Yoga also helps with your balance and agility, which can help to protect you from falls and, therefore, fractures.

So how often should you exercise to improve your bone strength? Ideally, weight-bearing activities, such as walking or dancing, are best done at least four days a week, 30 minutes at a time (or divided into three, 10–15-minte chunks). And to help strengthen your muscles (for balance and bone support), see if you can do weight-lifting exercises at least twice a week. Of course, before doing any new form of exercise, talk to your doctor to make sure it’s suited to you.

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