How to keep your bones strongWednesday, 19 August 2020
Healthy Bones Action week urges all Australian’s to be more conscious of their bone health.
To put the urgency of good bone health into perspective, it’s estimated that by 2022 there will be over 2 million older people with low bone mass in NSW & ACT. With the prevalence of brittle bones so high in Australia, it’s essential to understand how to keep your bones healthy and strong.
Let’s take a closer look at the role exercise plays
How does exercise increase bone density? Our bones respond in a very similar fashion to our muscles in response to exercise – it helps improve their strength! Bone is a type of tissue which responds to applied force making it stronger, just like our muscles. As a result, regular exercise can help strengthen and maintain your bone density, and reduce the risk of complications such as osteoporosis that comes with aging.
A simple analogy
Think of your bones as a scaffold, consisting of workers that help build bone strength. As we get older, these workers become more tired and can’t keep maintaining bone strength. By placing stress and impact through the bones, we ‘wake’ these workers up, increasing productivity and improving bone strength.
What type of exercise is best?
One of the best types of exercises to improve bone strength is resistance exercise, or lifting weights. By adding resistance to movements, you increase force through both your muscles and your bones, increasing strength in both areas. Talk about bang for your buck! Some examples of resistance exercises include Wall Push-Ups, Sit to Stands or Squats, or any other exercises that involve producing force through the muscle and bone.
Other weight bearing exercises such as walking, dancing, or sports like tennis can also improve bone health through impact. They can also stimulate bone growth and development. However, if you been diagnosed bone frailty please consult your GP or an Accredited Exercise Physiologist about what exercises may suit you best.
The importance of balance exercises
An area of exercise less commonly discussed around osteoporosis is balance and mobility. As we age, our risk of falls increases due to declines in our function. Brittle bones and falls’ risk aren’t a great combination. Therefore, by consistently completing balance and mobility exercises, you can reduce the risk of falls and lower your risk of fractures. Some examples here could be Yoga or Tai-Chi. These won’t directly improve bone strength, but by helping improve your balance, mobility, and core strength, you’re less likely to fall and injure yourself.
Exercise isn’t the only way to help maintain or improve bone strength. Vitamin D, which we get from natural sunlight, is another important factor in bone health. You may consider exercising outdoors to get the best of both worlds. As I’m sure you have heard before, calcium is also an essential component for healthy bones. A combination of vitamin D, calcium and exercise will help you maintain bone strength and prevent long term injuries like fractures.
Keep your bones strong and help reduce the risk of osteoporosis or a fracture. If this article has raised any questions regarding suitable exercise or dietary advice, give us a call on 1800 637 700 to be speak to an Accredited Exercise Physiologist or Accredited Practicing Dietitian.
Jonathon Fermanis, Accredited Exercise Physiologist
*This page was updated 5 May 2021.