Exercise for Strong Bones
Writes, Dr Rajeev K Sharma, Senior Consultant, Orthopedics & Joint Replacement Surgeon, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi.
|Dr. Rajeev K. Sharma, Senior Consultant, Orthopedics Surgeon|
Bones form the skeletal structure of our bodies and play a number of functions to keep its functioning normal. From protecting the internal organs like heart and lungs and ribs, to enabling a base structure for muscles and ligaments to storing reserve minerals in the body, the bones play multiple roles in human functioning.
Much like all other parts of the body, bones too are affected by the weakening process of ageing. Weakening bones and muscles are a major cause of trouble in the elderly. Weakening bones not only make them susceptible to fractures, they also restrict movement and degrade quality of life.
Besides consumption of a bone-friendly diet, exercising is absolutely crucial to maintain bone health in the long run. Since bone is a living tissue, it becomes stronger when subjected to exercise. Loss of bone mineral density that begins during the 30s can be prevented by exercising regularly. People who exercise are found to have greater peak bone mass as compared to people who do not exercise. But, not all kinds of exercises help strengthen the bones. Weight bearing exercises are ideal for the bones.
What is bone loss?
Bones are composed of protein matrix and minerals, calcium being the most important of all. In the 30s, our bones reach their maximum level of density. Some of the mineral from our bones is regularly lost and built. After we reach the peak bone density, the rate of bone loss becomes higher than the rate of bone regeneration. This is why the bones start losing calcium and other minerals.
When the bone density becomes too low, the bones are characterized to become weak. This phenomenon is known as osteoporosis. Osteoporotic bones are more prone to fracture with minor trauma in elderly patient.
Bone Building Exercises
Understandably the higher the peak bone density the lesser the chances of a person acquiring osteoporosis at a later stage. We can therefore prevent bone loss with regular exercise. Exercise not only strengthens our bones but also strengthens the muscles that support the bones and the joints.
Two forms of exercises are particularly important for building bone density and maintaining bone health:
Weight bearing exercises are ideal for the bones. They put extra stress on the bones catalyzing them to respond by building their strength. Any activity that forces your body to work against gravity can be called weight bearing. These exercises help build bone strength and achieve a higher peak bone density. However, the intensity of weight bearing exercises should be decided according to the body’s strength and capability. Also, the intensity should always be gradually increased.
- Weight training: This involves lifting heavy weight and should be done by absolutely healthy people. It not only builds muscle but also increases bone health and density. Men and women who start such exercise in their 20s will be fitter and stronger than their counterparts who failed to do so. They will also have higher peak bone density in their 30s.
- Hiking: If you are an adventure lover, go ahead and indulge heavily in hiking, trekking and mountaineering. This will not only fulfill your penchant for fun but also help build your bones.
- Dancing & aerobics: For those who have a dancer’s foot, there is nothing better than dancing out every day. Pleasurably as it may be, it will also be extremely good for your bones and muscles. You may also take to aerobics.
- Running: Running is a good exercise for several reasons. It helps manage weight, it helps keep the heart in good health, and it also strengthens bones and muscles. Run a few kilometers every day and chances are you will be fit enough to run even when many of your contemporaries will find walking tough.
- Climbing stairs: This is another healthy way to strengthen bones and muscles and build stamina. Shunning elevators and climbing stairs every day is a life-long healthy exercise.
- Brisk walking: For those who are not fit enough to perform any of the above due to health or other reasons must certainly do brisk walking for 30 minutes every day. This is a low impact weight bearing exercise but has good effect on bones.
Posture & Muscle Strengthening Exercises:
While weight bearing exercises strengthen bones, there are other ways to strengthen muscles and prevent pain and problems arising out of posture related issues.
- Yoga: Yoga helps in balancing the body and making it more flexible. In the long run, this prevents injuries to ligaments and muscles.
- Posture exercises: If you spend hours every day crouched in a chair in front of a computer, chances are high for your spine to injure itself. Posture exercises that help correct drooping shoulders, relieve a crouched back, and straighten the neck keep the spine bones healthy.
- Body Balancing: Body balancing is also crucial; especially in older people as it helps improve the equilibrium and balance of the body preventing falls and fractures.