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We're well into October, and you've probably seen more than your share of skeletons this month. But while you walk by all those Halloween decorations, why not take a moment to think about what you could be doing for your skeleton? And one of the best things you can do for your bone health is exercise!
Bone, like muscle, is living tissue that needs to be maintained and built through nutrients and activity. Regular physical activity increases bone density in both younger and older people. This is particularly important for older adults who are more susceptible to bone loss and conditions like osteoporosis. But no matter what age you are, you can find exercise that will help you build strong bones, and we've got a list of some ideas below!
These Chinese martial arts are low impact, focused on perfecting slow, deliberate movements. They combine grace of form with mindfulness, incorporating meditation and breathing exercises in a practice that can help your circulation, balance, posture, and alignment. Studies also suggest that people who practice them regularly may enjoy more bone density; postmenopausal women who practiced tai chi 5 days a week, 45 minutes a day for a year, had a rate of bone loss 3 1/2 slower than women who didn't practice it.
Yoga, a flexibility workout that can be adapted to anyone's physical condition, stretches your muscles to improve mobility and strength. It also improves posture, balance, coordination, concentration, and body awareness, which help to improve your mobility while also reducing fall risk. It incorporates mindfulness practices to improve breathing and reduce stress, and may also strengthen your bones! Women who do yoga regularly have been found in studies to have improved spinal bone density.
No matter where you are, walking is an effective option for a convenient workout with meaningful long-term results. Brisk walking is your best bet, but you can see improvements in your health, mobility, and strength from walking regularly at any pace. A study of nurses who walked four hours or more a week found that they had a 41% lower chance of hip fracture than nurses who walked less than an hour. Considering the physical toll of nursing, those are powerful results.
Bearing your own weight can increase bone density, and so can the impact on your legs when your feet hit the ground. The changing inclines involved in hiking can vary the impact on your body so you can use a full range of muscles in your hips, legs, and back.
Dance-based exercise doesn't have to be high-impact. Many aerobics and step classes now incorporate dance moves, combining them with strength training to build muscle, increase bone density, and improve your balance.
Don't forget to strengthen your arms, wrists, and shoulders! Wrists in particular are endangered by loss of bone density. Racket sports like tennis, racketball, squash, and badminton can strengthen your upper body and also help build density in your hips and spine.
Most would assume that strength training is high-impact and punishing, but it doesn't have to be. Between calisthenics, yoga, resistance bands, and weight machines, there are plenty of moderate, adaptable options to strengthen muscle. Strength training at least twice a week is required to stimulate bone growth, so it's important to find ways to build strength that work with your body's needs.
Consult with your doctor or other qualified health care professional before taking any medication, supplements, or beginning any health regimen.