Movements Bones Love | Exercise for Strong Bones!

Have you ever taken time to consider your bone health?

Perhaps you’ve been told by your GP that your bone health needs some work, or you may have even been diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia.

For those over 50 especially, this may become something that crosses your path.

This means putting some extra focus on our bone health can help keep them strong, resilient and as healthy as we can get them.

Whether you have low bone density and have been diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia, or if you want to keep your bone health strong to avoid developing osteoporosis later in life, the following content will apply.

Today, we are going to learn how bones grow, and what exercise we need to grow them!

The factors that influence bone health

Before we talk about what exercise works best for building bone density, we need to take a step back to see what influences bone growth and where exercise steps in.

For a bone to grow and maintain it’s density, it relies on 3 things. A stimulus, having building blocks readily available and instructions to build.

The Stimulus

To stimulate a bone to grow, we need to give it a reason to! Like a muscle, bone is a living and breathing tissue, and to grow it, we need to exercise it. As we get older, more focus on this stimulus is needed to make sure our body gives its valuable resources to keeping our bones healthy. More on this later.

The Building Blocks

To ensure our stimulus (exercise) can cause development of bony tissue, we need to make sure we have the ingredients for bone to be in good supply. This includes your calcium and vitamin D. A dietary review can help guide this, and how to get in extra.

The Instructions

To react to the stimulus, and to provide your developing bones with the building blocks they need, we need hormones to trigger the growth and development of the bone itself. After menopause the hormones that are responsible for developing bone density reduce, thus putting those who are post-menopausal at an increased risk of developing low bone density. Discussion with your GP can advise if any medications can assist in helping your bone density and hormonal control of bone growth if needed.

Our focus for this blog will be how we can implement a good stimulus for bone growth, and for our stimulus to work, the building blocks and instructions also need to be present – consider a review with your GP to help further guide in these areas.

Exercises Bones Love

To convince a bone to grow, we need to give it a good reason to!

Bones need loading and weight bearing to get stronger, and they need variety to keep them growing. Bones get bored easily, so they need regular exposure to loads that are heavier and stronger than you might think.

In practice, those exercises that elicit the best response look like this:

High Impact Exercises

One thing bones react well to are activities and exercises that send force through the bone itself, and the best way to do that is through controlled impact!

Sounds crazy right? Stick with me 💪

The research in this area is overwhelming, bones need a good bump and some short bouts of high impact through the week to stimulate growth.

What this looks like on a grand scale is jumping, changing of direction and stomping. Think of sports like tennis, basketball and skipping. The higher the impact, the better bone growth will be.

For most, going straight in to these activities (especially if you have already developed osteoporosis) may take some planning and smaller exercises to get you on the way. This can include stomping your way up the stairs, small jumps and short walks. 

Exercises that don’t help much from a bone loading perspective include those that are non-weight bearing. This includes activities such as swimming, hydrotherapy and cycling. Although these exercise choices are great for other reasons, they do not add much bone loading. To get those bones growing, we can bias higher impact and weight bearing activities instead. 

Resistance Training

Another way we can build bones is to pull on them with our muscles. Our muscles are strong, and they use your bones as an anchor to provide movement. By loading the muscles, we also load the bones!

The amount of force required to grow bones might surprise you. Over time, we want to have people lifting as heavy as possible to elicit bone growth. To give an idea, over time we aim to progress to weights we can move for 5 repetitions with minimal room for a 6th!

This can take time to build up to, but has some tremendous effect on your bone health. 

Putting this to practice – Exercising for Bone Health

Reading all this seems easy enough, but how do we adopt this knowledge and apply it to the exercises we are doing? To get you started, we can follow these general rules:

  • Bias load bearing exercises over non-weight bearing exercises
  • If you’re not already, start weight training
  • When weight training, aim to progress to heavy weights over time
  • Include short bursts of high impact up to twice per day
  • Be variable in your exercise choices over time
  • Reach out for help if you’re unsure

If all this seems great in theory but hard to implement in practice due to other health concerns, aches and pains, confidence or not quite knowing where to start, some guidance may go a long way.

If you’re unsure where to start or how to build your exercises safely contact us and our friendly team here, or book in to see us below!

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