Bone Health and Exercise

As you age, your bones become weak and fragile. Exercise is essential to build up bone mass when you are younger and minimize bone loss that occurs as you grow old. Osteoporosis is a very common bone-thinning disease that effects women after menopause and older men. This disease increases the risk of developing fractures and can seriously restrict your mobility.

Because bone is a living tissue, it responds to exercise by producing more bone cells and becoming dense. Exercise also improves balance and coordination, reducing the risk of falls that could cause a bone fracture.

Any form of weight-bearing exercise or strength training is good for your bones. Good examples of weight-bearing exercises are walking, jogging, jumping rope, dancing, tennis, soccer, and stair climbing. Although strength training focuses on developing your muscles, it also stresses the bones and hence strengthens them as well. Between the ages of 10 to 18 years, the maximum amount of bone mass can be built up by regular high-impact exercises performed for 20 minutes 3 to 5 times a week.

People diagnosed with osteoporosis or thinning of bones should consult their doctor before taking part in high-impact exercises such as jogging or running sports. Non-impact exercises such as tai-chi and yoga strengthen your stabilizing muscles, increase flexibility, and improve bone health to some extent. They are particularly effective when diseases such as arthritis, obesity, or heart conditions do not allow participation in more rigorous forms of exercise.

After the age of 30 years, exercise will help decrease the amount of bone loss. An effective exercise routine to improve bone health in a middle-aged person would include 30 minutes of weightbearing activity 4-6 times a week. If you are pressed for time, you could split up your exercise routine to 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening. It is important to be consistent to reap the health benefits. People who maintain an active lifestyle tend to have a reduced risk of fractures in old age.

Exercise, when combined with a calcium-rich diet and a healthy lifestyle, can result in lifelong bone health.