8 Weight-Bearing Exercises That Help Boost Bone Strength

Written by Stefanie Lisa, CPT, CFN

Weight-Bearing Exercises

Are you getting older and starting to worry about losing bone mass? And what does weight-bearing exercise have to do with bone mass? Quite simply, you can employ weight-bearing exercises, as well as muscle-building exercises, to help you build and maintain your bone strength.

Why Should You Worry About Bone Strength?

Why is bone strength even a thing to be concerned with? Well, as you get older, especially if you have been sedentary, not only can you start to lose muscle mass, but you begin to lose bone strength and density. You’ve probably heard of osteoporosis. This word literally means “porous bones,” and it’s a condition that can develop over time as your body either loses bone mass or doesn’t adequately replenish your bone mass as you age.

This condition can become dangerous as it causes your bones to become brittle and to break more easily. Coupled with the propensity for unfortunate falls as you get older, fragile bones can cause myriad complications, including a loss of height, a reduction in strength, and can even cause your bones to fracture more easily. Additionally, in the elderly, fractures can cause a host of complications like delayed healing. So, it’s best to keep your bones strong while you can. An easy way to do that is through the use of weight-bearing exercises.

And, of course, diet also plays an important role in bone health, so make sure to include plenty of foods rich in calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and protein. You may also want to consider supplementing your diet to ensure you have all the bases covered.

Why Does Exercise Help with Bone Strength?

It may seem a little strange that lifting weights and working on your muscles could help you build up your bone strength in any way. But, oddly enough, it’s true! Bone is living matter that can be strengthened. Just as you would work a muscle to strengthen it, when you engage in resistance training with weights, you also fortify your bone mass and strength.

What Kind of Exercises Should You Do to Increase Bone Strength?

Now that you know you need to exercise for strong, healthy bones, you’re probably wondering what kind of exercise is best. The best exercise for increasing bone strength is one that forces you to work against gravity with either your own body weight or with some sort of resistance. These types of exercises are called weight-bearing exercises.

8 Weight-Bearing Exercises to Increase Your Bone Strength

Many forms of exercise will help increase your bone strength, but these in particular are some easy and effective methods you can use to get started. Mix up aerobic and anaerobic exercise as well as higher and lower impact sessions. Remember to add exercises for both upper and lower body as well to fully maximize your bone-strengthening efforts.

1. Walking—walking is probably the easiest and most convenient thing you can do to help improve your bone strength. Because walking is so gentle on your joints and you can adjust your pace to match your cardiovascular fitness level, it’s the perfect way to start improving your bones. Don’t forget to regularly include weight-bearing exercise for your upper body as well when using a walking program.

2. Running—a step up, so to speak, from walking, jogging and running place a bit more force on the bones than walking. Of course, run with caution as it can place too much stress on other areas like joints, tendons, and ligaments.

3. Aerobic classes—yes, you can pull out those leg warmers again. It turns out aerobic classes like Step Aerobics can be a real benefit when it comes to bone strength.

4. Jumping rope—this massive calorie burner plays double duty as it’s also super effective for boosting your bone strength. Repeated jumping placed quite a bit of force on your lower body and also requires you to move against gravity to jump. To help protect your joints, you may want to invest in a jump mat.

5. Stair stepper—this machine is another effective way to build up your bones. Since the acting of stepping up forces you to push against gravity, this exercise is a great one to add to your list and a big calorie burner to boot.

6. Weight training—regardless of your ultimate fitness goals, lifting weights is a must and belongs on everyone’s agenda. Naturally, you’re using the force of gravity to lift the weights, and you’ll be resisting gravity on the negative portion of your repetitions. In addition, weight training has benefits across the board as you build muscle, burn calories, strengthen your body, and improve the look and tone of your physique.

You can divide your workouts into upper and lower body days and aim for 12 – 15 repetitions per exercise set. It’s a great idea to use a personal trainer to show you the ropes until you’re comfortable with these weight-bearing exercises and understand how to perform them properly.

7. Golfing—yes, finally some good news! Golf is a good exercise for maintaining and building bone strength, especially upper body strength. Not only is this great for your upper body, but you’ll also work your spine and hips in the process. There is a catch, though. Carrying your own golf bag is part of the benefit. So, get out of that golf cart if you want to maximize the benefits of golfing.

8. Tennis and racquet sports—these activities are wonderful weight-bearing exercises to help fortify your upper body, hips, spine, and legs.

Which Exercises Are Not Effective at Building Bone Strength?

You may be assuming that all exercise is effective when it comes to bone strength, but this is not true. The exercises in which you engage must be weight-bearing exercises. That means you have to be working against gravity, and your bones must repeatedly support weight. While walking, jogging, weightlifting, and more are effective bone-strengthening exercises, activities like cycling and swimming do not place weight on your bones and are therefore ineffective for building bones.

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