How exercise improves bone health

It’s never too late to start! Here’s how exercise can improve bone density’even for women who’ve already been diagnosed with osteoporosis

How exercise improves bone health

Source: Best Health Magazine, November 2011

You know that exercise is good for your body’not just your muscles and heart, but your bones, too. Now new research published in the journal Cochrane Library shows that exercise can improve bone density even for women who already have osteoporosis.

Researchers from the United Kingdom and Canada studied post-menopausal women who had been diagnosed with osteoporosis, and found that when the women did exercises that put some stress on bones, such as jumping jacks and walking, it lowered their risk for fractures and helped improve bone density.

‘Bone loss as you age is normal,’ says study researcher Beverley Shea from Community Information and Epidemiological Technologies, and an adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa. ‘But for women who did these exercises, we saw less bone loss and fewer fractures compared to women who didn’t exercise. Over time we may even see an improvement in bone mass.’

Post-menopausal women are at a high risk for osteoporosis. ‘Estrogen helps store calcium in the bones, and the amount of estrogen produced falls quite precipitously during menopause,’ says Dr. James Waddell, board chair for the Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation.

The exercises in the study put stress on bones, which makes them stronger, in much the same way that physical activity can make muscles stronger through tissue repair.

If exercise can do that for weakened bones after menopause, imagine what it can do for your bones now, say Shea and Waddell. And Kelly Murumets, ‘CEO of ParticipAction, agrees. ‘Even as young women, we should be exercising to get all the health benefits, and that includes stronger bones,’ she says.

Are you doing the right workout?

Not all exercise boosts bone health. ‘Swimming and cycling don’t put weight on the bones, so be sure to do muscle-strengthening and weight-bearing exercises such as walking,’ says Waddell. Any movement that makes bones carry weight’whether it’s your body weight or actual weights’and fight gravity helps build up bone density. Resistance training, calisthenics (such as push-ups and jumping jacks), running, walking and even tai chi can all help.

This article was originally titled “No bones about it” in the November 2011 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!