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Exercise Can Strengthen Your Bones

Natalie
Stein
May 20, 2022
Exercise Can Strengthen Your Bones
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In this article:

  • Bone mineral density is important because it predicts your fracture risk. A low bone mineral density puts you at higher risk for fractures. 
  • Many weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises can improve bone density.
  • Eating a healthy diet with plenty of calcium and vegetables, getting vitamin D, and avoiding smoking can also support bone density.
  • Lark can help you make exercise a habit. Lark can also provide coaching on healthy lifestyle choices that can support bone health as well as weight loss or other health goals.

Bones are important, but are you protecting your bone health? It turns out that getting your exercise is one of the best ways to promote healthy bones. Weight-bearing exercises and resistance exercises can both be good for bones. 

Here's what to know about why bone health is important and how exercise can help. And don't worry, because any exercise you do to strengthen bones does double duty. It helps you hit exercise recommendations for adults in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

Importance of Bone Health

Why should you focus on bone health? More than 1 in 25 men and 1 in 6 women have osteoporosis of the femur or lumbar spine, according to the CDC. Osteoporosis, or low bone mineral density, increases the risk of fracture. A review article in Missouri Medicine says osteoporosis is a leading cause of disability and pain.

Bone Health in Children and Adults

Bones are structural, but they're not just unchanging, like cement. Bones are dynamic, and your choices can affect bone metabolism. Bones constantly break down and build up.

When they build up faster than they break down, you gain bone mineral density. That happens until around age 30 years. Until this time, the goal is to build up as much bone mineral as possible. Physical activity helps increase peak bone mass.

When bones break down faster, you lose bone mineral density. This happens after around age 30. After this time, the goal is to slow the loss of bone mineral density. Physical activity helps with this.

Which Exercises Work? 

The way that exercise strengthens bones is partly due to the stress placed on them. Just as muscles adapt to become stronger when you use them, bones adapt to demands that you put on them. An article in Biogerontologyexplains this concept, and some of the hormones and other factors involved. 

Weight-bearing and resistance training exercises can support bone strengthening goals. Weight-bearing exercises involve holding yourself up. They can be high-impact or low-impact.

High-Impact Weight-Bearing Exercises Low-Impact Weight-Bearing Exercises Non-Weight-Bearing Exercises

  • Hiking
  • Climbing stairs
  • Jumping jacks
  • Jumping rope
  • Playing tennis

  • Low-impact aerobics
  • Brisk walking
  • Elliptical machine

  • Swimming
  • Water aerobics
  • Recumbent or upright bicycling

Muscle strengthening exercises can also support bone mineral density. You can use weights, body weight, or equipment such as resistance bands or a medicine ball. A review article in Endocrinology and Metabolism has these tips for making resistance training work for your bones.

  • Increase resistance (load) over time.
  • Hit major muscle groups at least twice weekly.
  • Aim to lift heavier weights, such as at least 80% of your maximum capability.
  • Target large muscle groups.

Some exercises count as moderate to vigorous-intensity exercise, but aren't considered bone-strengthening exercises. Examples of good aerobic or cardio activities that aren't considered bone-strengthening are swimming, bicycling, and water aerobics. 

Ask your doctor before starting any new exercises. If you have diabetes or peripheral neuropathy, weight-bearing or high-impact exercises may not be safe for you. To prevent injuries, you'll also want to be sure to use proper form for any activity that you do.

More Lifestyle Choices to Support Bone Density

Other lifestyle choices also affect bones. These are some steps you can take to protect your bones.

  • Regularly eat high-calcium foods, such as reduced-fat dairy products.
  • Eat vegetables, fruit, and plant-based proteins.
  • Ask your doctor if you need a vitamin D supplement. 
  • Avoid smoking. 

Talk to a healthcare provider if you have concerns about bone health. She may suggest a vitamin D test or a bone mineral density test, or assess your risk factors for osteoporosis. 

Lark can coach you on making healthy choices and turning good choices into habits. You can get more out of Lark by logging activity and using the app often.

Getting physically active is one of the most impactful choices you can make to manage weight and lower your risk of chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension. It can be challenging to hit exercise recommendations or be consistent with a program, but having Lark in your pocket can help.

Lark offers personalized coaching designed to help you make choices that are known to lower the risk for diabetes. The program can help you achieve physical activity goals by providing information, reminders, and feedback when you log your activity or other health information.  Lark is available 24/7 through your smartphone to help you succeed.

You may be eligible to join Lark at no cost to you if your health insurer offers it as a covered benefit. Just click here to get started in finding out!

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