Your bones like your muscles, are living tissues that respond to exercise. According to the National Institute of Health, “Young women and men who exercise regularly generally achieve greater peak bone mass (maximum bone density and strength) than those who do not. For most people, bone mass peaks during the third decade of life. After that time, we can begin to lose bone.”
In maintaining your bone strength and density throughout your life, regular exercise and nutrition are important factors—as well as supplements that provide the vitamins and minerals your bones need and compensate for deficiencies in your diet.
What exercises are the best for your bones?
Weight-bearing and resistance exercises are best for your bones. While cardiovascular exercises such as swimming and cycling also have health benefits, they are not the best ones to exercise your bones.
Weight-bearing exercises include running, walking, jogging, hiking, tennis, and dancing—i.e., exercises that force you to work against gravity. Weight-bearing exercises signal your body to “produce added tissue to build stronger bones.” Resistance exercises include weightlifting.
Is exercising beneficial if I have osteoporosis or low bone density?
It’s never too late to start exercising and if you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, exercise “strengthens bones and muscles and improves balance, coordination, and flexibility. That's key for people with osteoporosis.”
For people with osteoporosis, some exercises should be avoided, however, due to an increase in the risk of bone fractures. If you have osteoporosis, hiking, jumping rope, climbing, and running may place too much strain on your spine and hips.
Playing golf also increases the risk of fractures because it requires rotating your trunk. Sit-ups aren’t the best exercises to perform, either.
8 exercises to promote your bone health
From Healthline.com, here are eight exercises that you can do with or without weights to safely promote your bone health:
Foot stompsAmong the areas, that osteoporosis most commonly affect, are the hips. While standing, stomp one foot four times, as if you're crushing a can, and then repeat the exercise with your other foot. If necessary, hold onto furniture or a railing to stabilize yourself.
Bicep curlsCurls can be done with dumbbells, a curl bar, or resistance bands, and performed seated or standing. Here's a link to a video demonstrating proper form for performing curls with a bar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uO_CNYidOw0
Ideally, perform 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions. If using weights, adjust the amount of weight to ensure that you are exerting yourself while maintaining proper form to prevent injuries.
Shoulder liftsShoulder lifts also require dumbbells or resistance bands and be done seated or standing. Start with your arms down and hands at your sides and raise your arms out slowly front of you grasping the dumbbells or resistance band; no more than shoulder height and without locking your elbows. Repeat 8-12 times for 3 sets.
Hamstring curlsHamstring curls strengthen your upper leg muscles. With your shoulder-width apart, slightly move your left foot back until your toes are touching the floor. Contract the muscles in the back of your leg to lift your left heel toward your buttocks and slowly lower it back to starting position in a controlled manner. Alternate each leg for 8-12 repetitions, with 3 sets per leg. Hamstring curls can also be done on gym machines. Here's a link demonstrating properly performed curls on a leg machine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaSHOocFTVg
Standing side leg raiseThis exercise again focuses on your hips, which can be a problem area for osteoporosis. Starting with your feet hip-width apart, shift your weight to your left foot. Flex your right foot and keep your right leg straight as you lift it to the side, no more than 6 inches off the ground. Lower your right leg. Repeat for 8-12 repetitions, alternating sets with your other leg. Use a piece of furniture or railing if needed to stabilize yourself. This video illustrates side leg raises: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOoZ_rRvrv4
SquatsSquats can strengthen the front of your legs and your buttocks. With your feet hip-width apart, bend at your knees to slowly squat down. Keep your back straight, bending only with your legs until your thighs are parallel with the ground. Return to a standing position and repeat the exercise 8-12 times for 3 sets.
Ball sitPerforming the ball sit requires that you sit on an exercise ball with your feet flat on a floor. Keeping your back straight, hold the position for as long as possible, and repeat two or three times while resting in between sets.
Standing on one legThis exercise promotes a better sense of balance. Use a stationary object to steady yourself if necessary.
These exercises are useful whatever your age and ability, allowing for a wide range of intensity depending on your use of weights and number of repetitions and sets. If you're young and active and away from the gym, most of these can be performed anywhere and without equipment.
While exercising regularly, you also need to take account of other factors that impact your bone health; consuming nutritious foods and taking supplements as needed to account for any deficiencies in your diet.
What is your favorite exercise to keep your bones healthy? Let us know in the comment section.
Exercise for Your Bone Health. (n.d.).
Retrieved from https://www.bones.nih.gov/
Wheeler, T. (2018, November 8). Best Osteoporosis Exercises: Weight-Bearing, Flexibility, and More.
Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/
Exercises to Strengthen Your Bones. (n.d.).
Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com