Published By: Sanjukta

Can workouts help with bone health?

Better bone health lowers the risk of falls

Just like every part of your body, your bones need proper care to stay healthy and strong. Exercise is a key component of bone health and fall prevention. By incorporating regular physical activity into your routine, you can help maintain your current bone mass and possibly even increase it, which reduces the risk of debilitating fractures later in life.

Certain types of exercise boost muscle mass, which in turn enhances strength, muscle control, balance, and coordination. Improved balance and coordination can make the difference between falling and sustaining a fracture, and staying on your feet. Strong evidence indicates that regular physical activity can reduce the risk of falls by nearly a third in older adults who are at high risk of falling.

Bones are continuously changing, with new bone being made and old bone being broken down. In youth, the body creates new bone faster than it breaks down old bone, leading to an increase in bone mass. Most people reach their peak bone mass around age 30. After this point, bone remodeling continues, but slightly more bone mass is lost than gained. This gradual loss of bone mass makes maintaining bone health crucial, as it helps prevent conditions like osteoporosis and reduces the risk of fractures with age.

How exercise strengthens bones

Bones are dynamic structures that constantly undergo a process called remodeling. This involves breaking down old bone tissue and forming new bone tissue. Exercise plays a crucial role in this process by placing stress on the bones. This stress signals the body to increase bone formation and decrease resorption, making your bones stronger and denser.

The Science of bone stress

When you engage in weight-bearing or high-impact activities, your bones sense the mechanical stress through a process known as mechanotransduction. This generates tiny electrical signals within bone cells called osteocytes. These signals trigger a cascade of biological responses, activating cells that build new bone (osteoblasts) and inhibiting those that break down bone (osteoclasts). This keeps your bones robust and resilient.

Best workouts for bone health

Weight-bearing exercises

These include activities where you work against gravity. Walking, running, and hiking are excellent examples. These exercises stress your bones, particularly in the hips, legs, and spine, helping to increase bone density.

Resistance training

Lifting weights or using resistance bands places a direct load on your bones through muscle contractions. Exercises like squats, lunges, and push-ups are particularly effective. This type of training not only strengthens muscles but also stimulates bone growth.

High-impact activities

Jumping, dancing, and sports like basketball or soccer involve high-impact forces that generate significant stress on your bones. These activities are particularly effective in stimulating bone formation and increasing bone mineral density.

Balance and flexibility exercises

While not directly impacting bone density, activities like yoga and Pilates improve balance and flexibility, reducing the risk of falls and fractures.

Non-impact activities

Swimming and cycling are excellent for cardiovascular health and muscle strength but don’t place significant stress on bones. These can be complemented with weight-bearing and resistance exercises to ensure comprehensive bone health.

Benefits of strong bones as we age

As we age, our bones naturally lose density, making them more prone to fractures. Maintaining strong bones through regular exercise and a healthy diet can mitigate this risk. Here are some key benefits of good bone health as we grow older.

Reduced risk of osteoporosis

Stronger bones are less likely to develop osteoporosis, a common condition in older adults.

Better mobility

Healthy bones support better posture and movement, making it easier to stay active and independent.

Lower risk of falls

Exercise improves balance and coordination, helping prevent falls that can cause fractures.

Supporting Bone Health with Nutrition

While exercise is crucial, nutrition also plays a vital role in bone health. Key nutrients include calcium, vitamin D, and protein. Dairy products, leafy greens, fortified plant-based milk, and fatty fish are excellent sources. Adequate nutrition ensures that your bones have the necessary building blocks to stay strong.