I’m sure your mum told you to drink your milk to make your bones big and strong, but did she ever tell you to exercise?
From the moment we are born and as we grow old, our bones go through changes just like the rest of our body. They start off soft then begin to harden and strengthen until our mid-late twenties when they are at their peak strength. After this time the density of our bones start to decline and they become weaker.
If our bone mineral density decreases too far below what is expected for our age and sex, this is called Osteopenia. Osteopenia is the stage before Osteoporosis in which bones are considered clinically brittle, with an increased risk of fractures if we were to fall.
While nutrition is important to build and maintain bone health, exercise is also a major player to increase the peak strength of our bones and slow the rate of decline as we age.
The right exercise for bone health
Any exercise where your body exerts force against a load. This might be something like a dumbbell, exercise machine, or your body weight is considered resistance training. By exerting force against weight two things happen: firstly, your muscles pull on your bones to get them to move. Secondly, the weight of the object you are moving against applies compressive forces to your bones. These are both forms of “stress” to your bones that they respond and adapt to by laying down more mass and therefore becoming stronger.
- Start with 1-2 non consecutive days per week, progressing to 2-3 days per week
- Begin with 1 set of 8-12 reps, increasing to 2 sets after approx. 2 weeks, no more than 8-10 exercises per session.
- 4-5 days per week
- Moderate intensity
- Begin with 10 or 20 minutes (depending on cardiovascular fitness); gradually process to a minimum of 30mins (with a maximum of 45-60min).
- Type: walking, or individual preference appropriate aerobic activity