Osteoporosis – bone building exercises
Osteoporosis is one of the biggest killers in the UK and costs the NHS around £2 billion each year.
Osteoporosis literally means ‘porous bones’ and it occurs when the inner part of our bones (a mesh of collagen, calcium and other minerals) weaken and the honeycomb holes that make up the bone’s structure become larger.
As these holes get bigger, we lose inner bone strength – with no outward signs of pain until we break a bone.
Osteoporosis risk factors
- Smoking and heavy drinking (both damage bone-building cells)
- Post-menopausal women who don’t take HRT (replacing missing estrogen slows down bone loss and increases bone mineral density)
- Not eating enough bone-building nutrients
Exercises to protect against osteoporosis
Along with a well-balanced diet that’s rich in calcium and vitamin D, there are exercises that can help to increase bone density and build bone strength.
Strengthening muscles and bones works in two ways: firstly by improving balance and increasing flexibility – most fractures are caused by falls – and secondly by building density back into our bones with weight-bearing exercises and specific resistance moves.
Weight-bearing exercises are important for bone strength and these include any kind of activity where your feet and legs support your weight (even using a standing desk at work counts as weight-bearing activity).
High impact, weight-bearing exercises such as running, skipping, dancing, aerobics (even just jumping up and down on the spot) are also all useful ways to strengthen muscles, ligaments and joints.
Last but not least, resistance training is vital for muscle strength. This is where the action of the tendons pulls on the bones to boost bone strength, such as press-ups, lifting weights or using weighted gym equipment.
Michael Garry’s best bone-building exercises
Leading personal trainer Michael Garry shares his top picks for building better bone health and protecting yourself against osteoporosis.
Walking is fundamental to bone health and can be an easy win when it comes to taking exercise. Wear a weighted jacket or rucksack filled with water bottles, bags of beans etc. for extra effect
Whether you’re at work or staying in a hotel, take the stairs to boost your bone strength. Stride up two at a time for more of a challenge.
Jogging is the classic weight-bearing activity. If you’re new to running, download the Coach to 5k app. It’s a fantastic way to gain free advice and motivation.
One of the most fast and effective exercises for building bone strength is skipping. Start with simple two-foot skips, moving onto single-foot hops and faster alternating footwork for greater agility.
Tennis is a fantastic (and social) way to keep fit. With weight-bearing moves every time you hit the ball and increased flexibility and agility, it’s never too late to take it up.
Dancing is not only great for your bones, but it’s sociable and fun too! Whether ballroom, disco, line-dancing or Zumba appeals, join a group and get moving.
Use your own bodyweight to add resistance – no equipment required. Simple yet effective moves include push-ups, squats and using resistance bands.
Yoga and tai chi
Yoga and tai chi have both been found to be highly effective at building bone health if practised daily.