Why You Should Exercise for Bone Health

Why You Should Exercise for Bone Health

Staying active can offset the effects of osteoporosis

Photo: Woman walking on the beach.

Osteoporosis is the result of your body not making new bone tissue fast enough to replace bone mass that’s lost as part of growing older. There are, however, ways to prevent and slow the disease.

Taking precautions is important because osteoporosis is often not diagnosed until someone fractures or breaks a bone, according to Samir Mehta, MD, chief of Orthopaedic Trauma and Fracture Service at Penn Medicine.

Start by talking to your doctor about exercises you can do to toughen your bones. Like a muscle, bone responds to exercise by getting stronger. Exercise will also increase muscle strength and improve balance and posture.

Your doctor will most likely recommend weight-bearing aerobic activities and strength training. Appropriate weight-bearing aerobic activities include walking, hiking, playing tennis, using an elliptical machine, and dancing—anything that forces the body to work against gravity. Strength training includes lifting free weights or using resistance bands to strengthen major muscle groups. People with a risk of osteoporosis should focus on strengthening the areas most prone to fractures: wrists, hips, and spine. If you’re worried about lifting weights, schedule a few sessions with a physical therapist or trainer who can show you how to use the equipment safely.

And remember to talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program.

And Don't Forget About Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a nutrient that assists in maintaining strong bones and helps
your body absorb calcium, which boosts bone health.

Illustration: Adults up to age 70: 600 IU/day Illustration: Sunshine graphic. Illustration: Adults 71 & older: 800 IU/day
Best food sources: Fatty fish, like salmon, tuna, and mackerel. Fortified milk, some fortified orange juices and breakfast cereals. The best source: Sunshine! The body creates vitamin D when exposed to the sun—but remember to wear SPF 30 sunscreen. Supplements: If you’re not getting enough vitamin D through nutrition, you may need a supplement. Talk to your doctor first.