- Aging & Longevity
Exercises to Strengthen Bones. Prevent or Reduce Bone Loss for Strong Bones.
As young people grow their bones become bigger and denser. In their 30s they start to loss bone mass. The bone density gradually decreases making the bones weaker. If the bone loss happens quickly then the person may develop osteoporosis or porous bones. Porous bones means the bones have a lot of tiny holes in them. The bones become fragile, break easily and don't heal properly.
Osteoporosis is a very common disease that is often considered to be a natural part of aging but it is preventable. If you are young then you can increase your bone density before you start losing bone mass. If you are older then you can do things to slow down or prevent some of the bone loss. The bones will be stronger and heal faster. If your bones are already porous then you may be able to partially reverse bone loss. Women and men are both at risk but osteoporosis mostly effects skinny older women. It is considered an old persons disease but it starts when you are young. What you do now matters.
Exercise does not just strengthen your muscles and improve your coordination. It can also strengthen your bones. People that exercise regularly and have some muscle weight can make their bones stronger and prevent bone loss. Some of the best exercises for strengthening bones are weight bearing exercises like hiking, weight lifting, push ups, step ups, running, jumping rope, squats, yoga, tai chi and qigong. House work and yard work can also help.
You cause minor damage to your bones by straining them. Then they heal and become stronger. That is also how you strengthen your muscles. Running on an elliptical trainer or using other exercise machines that reduce the strain are not as effective. Some exercises like cycling while sitting down and swimming are bad for your bones. They are not weight bearing exercises so they don't strain your bones enough and they can reduce your weight.
A person that does a lot of swimming or biking is likely to have weaker bones than the average person. So they are more likely to break their bones and end up in the hospital. If you do a lot of biking, swimming and running on an elliptical trainer like I do then it is even more important to make sure you do weight bearing exercises to prevent bone loss.
Doing a variety of exercises is important because exercise strengthens the bones that were strained by the exercise. If you want to strengthen your wrist bones then you need to do exercises that strain your wrists like push ups. For exercises like weight lifting and body weight exercises the exercise should be difficult enough that you can only do 8 to 12 repetitions. If you can do more than that without taking a long break then increase the weight.
For body weight exercises you can make body weight exercises more difficult by modifying the exercise. The exercises should be done at a slow steady pace using good form. Hold for a few seconds before lowering the weight. A good habit to get into is to get up from sitting down without using your arms. It is good for your bones as well as your balance and coordination.
Don't skip over the easy exercises and go straight to the difficult ones. Walk before you run, do incline push ups on the stairs before doing regular push ups, lift light weights before heavy ones, etc. Gradually build up your strength and endurance. If you already have weak bones then avoid high impact exercises like jumping rope, doing exercises that involve a lot of bending or twisting, and lifting really heavy weights. Limit the exercise to gentler exercises like hiking, step ups, tai chi, lifting light weights and the less strenuous yoga poses.
Strict diets intended for fast weight loss increase your risk of osteoporosis. So does having a low body weight. Low body weight is associate with lower bone density. Most people with osteoporosis do not have much fat or muscle. They are thin. Losing weight is not always a good thing. Your attempts to be thin now can make your bones fragile later in life. Osteoporosis is preventable but there is no cure. So think twice before going on a crash diet.
Low fat diets can be bad for your bones. Your bones need unsaturated fats, fatty acids and protein. So your diet should include good fat that is found in things like olive oil, canola oil, salmon, raw nuts, sesame seeds, peanut butter and butter. Unsaturated fats tend to be liquid at room temperature. Saturated fat is hard at room temperature. It can be found in beef, fish, chicken, eggs and dairy products along with unsaturated fat. Saturated fat is bad in excess but it is in many of the foods that you should be eating. Foods like beef, fish, chicken and eggs contain saturated fat but they also contain protein and unsaturated fat. Trans fat is bad and should be avoided. It can be found in margarine and a lot of cheap low quality food products.
Your own body weight can help you maintain strong bones. You spend a lot of time doing body weight exercises while doing normal activities like walking up a set of stairs. You don't need to be fat or bulky to be at a good weight. Muscle weighs more than fat. You can be lean and heavy. Another advantage of having muscle is that it makes it easier to keep the fat off. If your light it would be a good idea to increase your muscle weight. If you need to lose weight then avoid crash diets. Lose the fat by exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy diet.
Exercising and being at a good weight may not be enough if you are doing things that speed up bone loss like smoking or drinking an excessive amount of alcohol. Stress, coffee, tea, alcohol, soft drinks, sugar, caffeine, salt, tobacco and an excessive amounts of meat can all weaken your bones. Limit the amount of stress and maintain a healthy well balanced diet. Stress can be reduced by practicing meditation, using deep slow belly breathing, doing relaxing exercises like tai chi or getting outside and spending time in nature.
You need things like sugar and salt but most people consume too much of them. You also need vitamin D and calcium. Many people don't get enough vitamin D and calcium. Calcium is a mineral that is essential for strong bones. If you don't consume and absorb enough calcium then your bones will be become porous and doing other things to strengthen your bones will not help. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. You can get calcium from milk and orange juice as well as foods like yogurt, cheese, spinach, broccoli, almonds, cereals, bread, canned salmon and canned tuna.
You can get vitamin D by spending time in the sun without sunblock and by consuming foods and drinks with vitamin D like fish, cereals, eggs, mushrooms, orange juice and milk. Most milk and orange juice has vitamin D added to it for health reasons. While being heavy can help to keep your bone strong having an excessive amount of fat can impair your ability to absorb vitamin D and calcium. So can taking certain meditations. A lot of people take medications instead of preventing or fixing health problems. Medications tend to have negative side effects.
Too skinny, too fat. Too much or too little of something. The key is moderation. For strong bones and a healthy body you should consume a moderate amount of good fat, protein, vitamin D and calcium. You should be at a good weight and have some fat. When exercising you should not spend a lot of time on one area while neglecting the rest of your body. When relaxing you should limit the amount of time you spend sitting or laying around.
Young women that are dieting to be skinny and light greatly increase the risk of developing osteoporosis and may start to suffer from it in their late 20s or early 30s. Osteoporosis is considered a women's disease but it can affect both men and women. It is more of a problem now that people are living longer and taking a lot of medication instead of taking good care of themselves.
© 2014 Michael H