The link between bone density and weight-bearing exercise

CCarson November 30, 2023 7:01 AM

Whenever we talk about health and fitness, topics like losing weight, building muscle, and improving cardiovascular health are often at the forefront. However, an equally important aspect that doesn't get as much attention is bone health. It's a fact that our bone density decreases as we age, leading to conditions like osteoporosis. One of the best ways to combat this is through weight-bearing exercises. In this article, we'll explore the link between bone density and weight-bearing exercises, and how they contribute to improved bone health.

Understanding bone density

Bone density, or bone mineral density, is the amount of bone mineral in bone tissue. The higher the density, the stronger and healthier the bones are. As we age, our bone density decreases, leading to brittle and fragile bones—a condition known as osteoporosis. While diet and lifestyle factors play a role in maintaining bone density, one of the most significant contributors is physical activity—specifically weight-bearing exercises.

The science behind it

When you perform weight-bearing exercises, you're essentially applying force to your bones. This force, or stress, causes your body to deposit more calcium into your bones, thus increasing their density. Studies have consistently shown that exercise has a positive effect on bone mineral density, helping to prevent the onset of osteoporosis.

Types of weight-bearing exercises

Weight-bearing exercises are activities that make your body work against gravity while staying upright. They can be high-impact, which includes activities like running, tennis, and aerobics, or low-impact, such as walking, yoga, and strength training. Here's a list of some common weight-bearing exercises:

  • Running or jogging
  • Walking
  • Tennis
  • Dancing
  • Basketball
  • Hiking
  • Stair climbing
  • Weightlifting
  • Yoga

Exercise prescription for bone health

While any physical activity is better than none, certain exercises are particularly beneficial for bone health. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises to optimize bone health. For healthy adults, it's suggested to aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity weight-bearing exercise on most days of the week, along with muscle-strengthening exercises twice a week.

The takeaway

Maintaining bone health is crucial for a healthy life, especially as we age. Regular weight-bearing exercise plays a key role in maintaining bone density and preventing disorders like osteoporosis. It's never too late to start, and even small changes to your fitness routine can have a big impact on your bone health.

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