Exercise Programs May Improve Bone Health

In addition to helping you walk and move, bones protect your brain, heart and other organs. They also store calcium and other minerals until your body needs them.

Learning how to keep your bones healthy and strong can lower your risk for osteoporosis, as well as other bone conditions.

Although 85 to 90% of bone mass is built by age 18 in girls and age 20 in boys, it's never too late to take these steps to improve the health of your bones:

  • Eat a balanced diet that is rich in calcium and vitamin D.
  • Exercise regularly. This should include plenty of weight-bearing activities such as walking, running, dancing and stair-climbing.
  • Don't smoke or abuse alcohol.

Exercise and Osteoporosis

Exercise is important for women at any age, but it may have specific benefits for postmenopausal women. Growing medical evidence suggests that regular exercise may offset the loss of bone mass.

A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine reports the benefits of exercising at least 4 times a week for postmenopausal women with osteopenia (low bone mass) in the spine or hip. In the study, some women completed an exercise program that included endurance exercises, jumping, strength training and stretching while another group of women did not exercise at all.

Results from the study show that women who exercised increased their bone density compared to those who remained inactive. In fact, the women who did not exercise actually had a significant decrease in their bone density.

Maintaining Your Bone Health While Dieting

When trying to lose weight, exercise can be vital not just for shedding pounds but to improve your bone health. If you're starting a new diet, speak with your doctor about setting exercise goals that will maintain or even improve your bone density.

In another study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, people who simply dieted for 1 year lost bone density in the lower spine and hip. On the other hand, dieters who exercised maintained their bone density, showing how you lose weight matters to your bones.

As always, talk to your doctor to learn which exercises are safe for you.

Sources: Archives of Internal Medicine, Krames Staywell

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