Any weight bearing exercise cuts down the risk of osteoporosis. It is true that some exercise are known to promote bone density and improve bone health.
Whereas, not all exercise is equal when it comes to building strong, healthy bones or preventing osteoporosis; some forms may decrease bone density, even in elite athletes.
So What Types of Exercise Promote Bone Density?
Researchers from the Bone & Joint Injury Prevention & Rehabilitation Center at the University of Michigan looked back at a research as far back as 1961 to determine what impact exercise has on bone density and bone health.
They discovered three characteristics of exercise that have the largest impact on increasing bone density. They are:
- The degree of strain the exercise exerts — Exercises that fit into this category include weightlifting and gymnastics because the amount of force or impact exerted on the muscles is significant.
- The degree of muscle strain the exercise is done — Consider high-impact, weight-bearing exercises that are done in repetition, such as jumping or plyometrics.
- How often the exercise strains the muscle — Here’s where running and jumping rope fits in, as a result of the repetitious impact to the bones that occurs frequently during an exercise session.
The intensity, rate, and frequency of strain during exercise all play a role in developing greater bone density, but the researchers didn’t determine which is the most important of the three. They did say that increases in bone density can be had in as little as 12 to 20 minutes of weight-bearing exercise, three days a week.
But since then, science has found that it could occur in less time than that, and it would be beneficial to consider doing exercises that fall into each of the above categories.
Think about this: jumping 10 to 20 times a day with 30 seconds of rest between each jump provides greater bone-building benefits than running or jogging, according to research out of Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah. These researchers found that running and jogging have less impact on bone density because of the repeated bone stress. So, if you are doing those activities daily, you should also be jumping at least 10 times a day.
What if you’ve been more sedentary than active most of your life? The good news is that you may still be able to regain bone strength.
The force of muscles pulling against bones triggers the bone-building process. So any exercise that exerts force on a bone will strengthen that bone.
Best Exercises for Increasing Bone Density
Pros recommend the following forms of exercise for all athletes in order to increase bone density and prevent bone loss:
- Weight Training, especially the Squat Exercise
- Stair Running
- Body Weight Exercises
- Jump Roping
Cycling, Swimming Can Decrease Bone Density
Swimming and bicycling are no way near weight-bearing exercises and aren’t usually listed on the list of exercises that improves bone density. In fact, there is some evidence that elite level cyclists actually lose bone density during high-intensity training and racing.
Researchers are not entirely sure of what is responsible for the bone loss in cyclists, but the current theories include:
- The non-weight-bearing nature of cycling put little strain magnitude on the bones.
- Minerals, including calcium, are lost at an enormous rate during hours of sweating.
- The possible energy imbalance (more calories are used than consumed) during hours of intense exercise.
Best Foods for Building Strong Bones
Building and keeping bone mass requires more than weight-bearing exercise alone. A combination of good nutrition and weight-bearing exercise is the sure way to build bone mass. Once we reach about age 30, we don’t build bone as readily so building adequate bone density early in life is the best way to prevent osteoporosis later. As an adult, the best way to maintain the bone mass is the same way you build it — getting adequate calcium in your diet and doing weight-bearing exercise.