When we think about strength training we typically think about building the muscles using resistance of some sort.
But did you know you can also offset bone diseases like osteoporosis (aka ‘brittle bone’) with certain types of training?
And also that other forms of exercise may actually weaken your bones?
Since bone density depletion is part and parcel of the ageing process for everyone, the earlier you start, the better your bones will be, meaning their less likely to break and wear in your twilight years.
Understanding Bone density
Bones are naturally light, but generally strong structures. Their density is determined by factors we can’t control like genetics and even gender with men having a higher density than women. Poor diet and lifestyle can also deplete their density – smokers’ bones can suffer and diets high in caffeine and low in calcium will also result in weaker bones.
In your lifetime bone density will increase up to the age of 25, plateau for about 10 years and then gradually decline. Loss of bone density is more serious in women post-menopause owing to hormonal changes.
And while broken bones are far from desirable in themselves the additional complications of serious fractures can be life-changing and in some cases life-threatening.
Building and maintaining bone density
But the good news is you can counteract the natural decline of the bones with diet and exercise.
Increase your intake of calcium, potassium, and vitamins D and K and you’ll be helping to maintain healthier bones.
High intensity exercises work wonders for the bones – your own bodyweight combined with the impact of the exercise will strengthen bones. Dancing, running, and hiking are all great exercises. And if you’re worried about the impact or being on an uneven surface a treadmill will absorb the shock of impact but ensure the effects of the workout are every bit as good.
Standing Yoga postures are also great at building bone density, so if you’ve not discovered Yoga yet it’s time to step on the mat. Postures with deep knee bends, like the warrior poses will build your bones as well as focusing the mind. Yoga also helps with balance and practising these will reduce the chances of you falling as well as the chances of suffering serious bone injury.
Resistance training is another bone-building exercise and easy to blend in to your day whether you’re working out at home or in the gym. Barbell classes like Body Pump, using dumbbells for upper body strength and more functional training with a kettlebell will all do the job.
It naturally follows that non-weight bearing exercises don’t help the bones. When you’re in the water swimming or taking an aqua class, the buoyancy mean you’re not enjoying the same benefits of exercising in the dry. And when you’re sitting on a bike or a rower the same to a lesser degree applies.
Of course, that’s not to say you should give up these types of exercise altogether, but to consider the ratios of them with the real bone builders that harness your body weight and extra weight to workout.
An effective bone-building regime you can start TODAY
Here’s a simple 30-minute programme that you can start today to build your bones:
Power walk or run on the treadmill (depending on your level of fitness)
5-minute resistance training for legs
10 narrow squats, 10 wide squats and 10 lunges on each leg using your own body weight or adding the resistance of a barbell. Keep repeating until 5 minutes is up
5-minute high impact
Work to your maximum running, jumping jacks, power squats for five minutes solid
5-minute resistance training for upper body
10 press ups, 10 bicep curls, 10 tricep dips, 10 lateral lifts. Keep repeating until 5 minutes is up.
Try to hold tree pose on each leg for 1 minute and then dancer’s pose on each leg for 1 minute and finish in plank for the last minute
If you can repeat this three times a week, your bones will be their very best!