Moving towards Bone Health
Bones, like muscles, become stronger with exercise. As bone mass peaks during the third decade of our lives, it’s important that adults incorporate regular exercise to prevent bone loss. Additionally, regular exercise aids with improving coordination and balance which will reduce the chance of falls and fractures as we age.
With physical inactivity being one of the risk factors associated with developing osteoporosis, which affects an estimated 924,000 Australians, ensuring strong bones is a high health priority. Exercise not only helps with preventing osteoporosis but helps the management and reducing the risk of fractures for individuals living with osteoporosis.
While all exercise is better than no exercise, there are certain types of exercise which are beneficial for promoting bone health. Weight-bearing and resistance exercises including walking, jogging, climbing stairs and strength exercises (weights or body weight) are some of the most beneficial types. While activities such as swimming and riding a bike are beneficial for overall health, they do not require your bones and muscles to work against gravity and not the optimal way to ensure you develop strong bones.
It’s important to understand that while weight-bearing exercises are recommended to prevent bone loss and osteoporosis, individuals who already have low bone mass need to take precaution with the amount of loading.
Some strategies to get the most out of exercise for bone health:
- Progress weight bearing and resistance exercises over time. If you don’t have much experience start with brisk walking before jogging and body weight exercises before exercises with weights.
- Incorporate balance exercises to prevent falls. Exercises include: one leg standing, heel-to-toe walking, and standing eyes closed.
- Prioritise exercises that are osteogenic (help form bone mass), see table below. While you can still participate in any type of exercise you enjoy, ensure you incorporate a variety of bone strengthening exercises.
- Individuals with low bone mass or osteoporosis should protect their spine and avoid exercises that flex or twist it. Working with an exercise professional to ensure exercises are suitable is recommended.
It’s important that exercises is paired with other lifestyles behaviours that encourage bone health including: a good diet including sufficient calcium and vitamin D, reducing alcohol, not smoking, and regular bone mass screening. To find out more about preventing and managing osteoporosis, talk with your GP or visit Osteoporosis Australia.
NQSF Program Coordinator