Exercise for Better Bone Health

06/01/16 10:03 pm

When you hear the phrase “bone health,” what do you think of? Many people will say Vitamin D, Calcium, osteoporosis, medications. But how many people think of exercise? In fact, appropriate exercise is one of the strongest supporters of bone health even if you’ve already been diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis.

Why is exercise important for bone health? Wolff’s Law. In its simplest terms, Wolff’s Law states that bone adapts to the load under which it is placed. That means that the more a bone is loaded, the more it adapts, and the stronger it is. This is a big reason why slightly overweight older adults are at a lower risk for decreased bone mineral density, their bones have been living with a heavier load!

Of course, bones have their limits to the forces they can withstand. That’s how fractures and other injuries occur, so exercising for bone health must be done carefully. A good rule of thumb is to focus on weight bearing activities. If you only swim, try to incorporate walking or jogging a few times a week. Add some dumbbell squats to your circuit machine routine at the gym. Just focus on activities that are done while supporting your own body weight and, as you get stronger, increase the load no more than 10% per week.

If you have already been diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis, ask your physician what exercises are safe for you to do and suggest that they refer you to a physical therapist. A physical therapist can safely introduce an exercise program targeted at maintaining bone mineral density safely and will work with other fitness professionals to progress your program.