Daily exercise helps in maintaining the health of our hearts and strengthens bones from injuries. The strength of our bones can determine the chances of living an enriched life sans injury. Although bone growth occurs mainly during early adolescence, daily bone strengthening exercises are equally beneficial. There are studies of nursing home residents, who through a disciplined rigorous programme, have achieved higher bone density levels. The fact that these people were advanced in age shows evidence that despite low bone density, bones have the capacity to be strengthened.
For those who are suffering from osteoporosis, there are two types of exercises that can help in building and maintaining bone density that is weight-bearing and muscle strengthening exercises. Weight-bearing exercises are exercises that move against gravity while staying upright and these can be high or low impact exercises.
High impact weight-bearing exercises help in building bones and maintaining strength. If one has a broken bone from osteoporosis or is at risk of breaking a bone, then high-impact exercises should be avoided. High impact exercises include dancing, high-impact aerobics, hiking, jogging, skipping, stair climbing and tennis.
For high impact cardio exercises, it is important to focus on exercises that apply gravity such as brisk running, playing outdoor sports, gardening, and indoor housework. The American Heart Association recommends being involved in an aerobic activity such as swimming, muscle strengthening and bone strengthening exercises such as brisk walking. The total duration of activities should be at least 150 minutes per week for adults and at least 30 minutes for five days of the week.
Low impact weight-bearing exercises are a safe alternative that can help keep bones strong especially if one is advised to stay away from high impact exercises. This includes elliptical training machines, low impact aerobics, stair-step machines and brisk walking.
It is important to do muscle strengthening exercises as else the muscles lose their strength and become flabby. Muscle strengthening exercises include activities where there is a movement and the body is not stationary with a weight attached or there is resistance to gravity. The exercises that can be done is known as resistance exercises. These include lifting weights, using elastic exercise bands, weight machines, lifting one’s body weight and functional movements such as standing and rising up on one’s toes.
Arm and leg weight lifting improve muscle tone and bone density. For arm weights, one or two-pound weights are recommended. For a start, especially for elderly aged women, it is recommended to lift a can of food and to do bicep curls until muscle fatigue sets in.
For leg weights, there are ankle weights that can be purchased at sports stores. The weights are encased in fabric and can be comfortably worn around the ankles. The ankle weights should be worn before sitting in a stationary chair that does not have wheels. It is recommended to sit up straight with legs bent and feet comfortably touching the ground. The knees should be then bent and one foot brought forward straight with the other foot still down. The legs should be alternately repeated until tiredness sets in. The ankle weights should not be used while walking around as it can strain muscles. They should be used when doing specific exercises and with the doctor’s approval.
There are muscle strengthening exercises such as Yoga and Pilates, that can improve strength, balance, and flexibility. However, caution should be practiced as certain positions is not safe for those with weak bones or there is an increased risk of broken bones. Exercises, where one bends forward, could increase the probability of breaking a bone located in the spine. It is recommended to get a doctor’s advice before embarking on such programmes as the actual bone condition has to be known before putting stress on it. The advice of physical therapists should be taken into consideration as to the exercises which are safe and beneficial in strengthening bones.
Gentle reminder: The information on this article is not meant to replace a qualified healthcare professional and should not be considered as professional advice. Please seek appropriate medical help when necessary.