Osteoporosis is a common cause of fractures in older people, especially women. In women, the greatest rate of bone loss occurs in the years immediately following menopause. Your peak bone mass is reached by the time you turn 30 years old. Everyone loses bone as they age, but not everyone gets bone thinning associated with osteoporosis. Although genetics and gender play important roles, research has identified key, life-long preventive measures—such as having enough calcium in your diet every day, and doing weightbearing and resistance (weight-lifting) exercises regularly—that can help avoid osteoporosis.
Among its benefits, regular weight-bearing exercises, produces strong bones in children and teens; helps to maintain bone mass in adults; can be part of an overall treatment plan that aims to slow the rate of bone loss after menopause; and can be used to both reduce the rate of bone loss and avoid injury to bones by improving muscle strength and balance in adults over 65 years.
Exercises that make your body work against gravity, such as running, brisk walking, stair climbing, dancing, tennis or netball, are good options for promoting healthy bones. Each time your foot hits the ground, you apply a stress to your bones, which respond by maintaining or sometimes increasing their strength, which can be measured in terms of bone mineral density.
The higher the impact of the activity contact, the greater the benefit to your bones. This is why weight-bearing exercises that include running or jumping (for example, jogging or rope skipping) are of greater benefit to your bone health than gentler weight-bearing exercises such as walking.
By itself, relaxed-paced walking does not increase bone density or reduce your risk of fracture, although it can be a good way of starting if you haven’t exercised in a long time. Jumping is a simple, weight-bearing exercise that can easily be fitted into your day, with just a couple of minutes per day being useful. You can jump while holding on to a rail or another person if you need support.
Experts advise working up to approximately 50 jumps of about eight centimeter in height, three to six days per week. You can jump on the spot, use a skipping rope, or jump from a step or box. As you get stronger, you can jump higher and build up to hopping on one leg. However, jumping and hopping are not suitable for people with osteoarthritis. Ask your doctor about other weight-bearing exercises that will work for you.
To maintain the bone-strengthening benefits of weightbearing exercise, you need to keep up the exercise regularly, for the long term. If you stop exercising, the benefit wears off. Experts advise 45 to 60 minutes of weight-bearing exercise three days per week to increase the strength of your bones. Swimming and cycling, although good for aerobic fitness, are not so helpful for strengthening your bones because they aren’t weight-bearing.