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Top Training Exercises to Prevent Osteoporosis

Weight Bearing Exercise for Bone Health

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Updated October 30, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Dumbbell Lunge

Dumbbell Lunge

(c) Paul Rogers

Help keep your bones strong by performing appropriate, regular exercise.

Osteoporosis is a thinning and weakening of the bones that affects men and women, especially women beyond menopause. The bones become brittle and have a greater risk of fracture. The word osteoporosis means “porous bones,” where porous means “full of holes” -- and that accurately describes the condition of your bones in osteoporosis.

Exercise Helps Maintain Strong Bones

In addition to good nutrition, weight-bearing or load-bearing exercise keeps bones strong by causing the muscles and tendons to pull on the bones, which stimulates bone cells to produce more bone. The load on the bones can be created by your own bodyweight, as in running or jogging, or by external weights like dumbbells or gym machines in a weight training program.

In fact, studies suggest that the best exercise may not only be weight-bearing but also "high-impact" exercise. This means imparting a jolt to muscle and bone such as when placing a foot forcefully on the ground while running, or lifting or pushing a weight suddenly. Naturally, you have to ensure you do such exercises safely.

A bone scan to assess bone mineral density (BMD) is a relatively simple procedure that is offered by medical practitioners.

Exercise Prevents Falls and Fractures

Strong bones help you prevent fractures if you fall, but strong muscles stop you falling in the first place by improving posture, movement and balance. Appropriate exercise not only helps keep bones healthy, it protects against falls and fractures as well by improving balance and strength.

Top Exercises for Bones

The Squat. The squat is a standard weight training exercise in which you lower your upper body by bending at the knees. You can do it with weights held at your sides, on your shoulders or with body weight alone. Either way, it is a good load-bearing exercise for the lower body.

The Deadlift. In this exercise you lift a weight from the floor by bending at the knees and keeping the back straight. This compound exercise works many muscles and joints and is one of the best exercises for all-round muscle and bone development.

Box steps, jumps and marches. With box steps, jumps or marches, you step, jump with two feet (and down again), or with one foot after the other onto a stable bench of suitable height. These exercises provide the weight bearing plus the jolt to the joint that can help bone growth.

Pushups and clap pushups. We know how the standard pushup works, but in the clap pushup you push your body and hands from the ground and clap hands before hitting the ground again. You can do this with the knees on the ground to make it a little easier.

Overhead press. This classic weight training exercise has you pushing dumbbells or barbells straight up over your head and down in one movement. Joints and muscles of the shoulders, elbows and wrists get a solid workout.

Incline dumbbell press. For this exercise you use a gym bench with the back adjusted to an incline. Push up overhead and return. An excellent upper-body exercise.

Running and jogging. Running or jogging, either on a treadmill or outdoors, is one of the best exercises for lower-body bone maintenance. Walking may be less helpful in this regard because impact and load-bearing is lower, but walking is still an excellent exercise for good health and fitness, but walking is still an excellent exercise for good health and fitness.

With all exercise activity, start modestly and progressively build workouts, be sure to warm up and cool down, and consult your doctor before undertaking any new type of exercise program if you have doubts about your fitness to do so.

Sources

Sports Med. 2012 Apr 1;42(4):301-25. Effects of training on bone mass in older adults: a systematic review. Gómez-Cabello A, Ara I, González-Agüero A, Casajús JA, Vicente-Rodríguez G.

Osteoporos Int. 2010 Jan;21(1):11-23. The effects of exercise and physical activity participation on bone mass and geometry in postmenopausal women: a systematic review of pQCT studies. Hamilton CJ, Swan VJ, Jamal SA.

Sports Med. 2012 Apr 1;42(4):301-25. Effects of training on bone mass in older adults: a systematic review. Gómez-Cabello A, Ara I, González-Agüero A, Casajús JA, Vicente-Rodríguez G.

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