What Are Weight Bearing Exercises

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What Are Weight Bearing Exercises

by Katy Santiago Bowman In an age of advanced drugs and treatments for bone loss, simple exercise programs that can prevent and restore bone density are often overlooked. The nutritional aspects of fostering bone health, like getting enough calcium, are also important. But certain ways to work out and move your body can create the weight-bearing load your bones need to get stronger. Exercise can help even if you already have bone loss Ten million Americans suffer from osteoporosis, and another 34 million have low bone mass and high risk for osteoporosis. If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia (low bone density for your age, but not low enough be a risk factor for fracture), it’s important to know that it most likely hasn’t affected your bones’ ability to develop. You’ve just stopped “loading” them. It’s also unlikely that your bone density is low in all the bones throughout your body — it’s likely centered in a few spots that you’ve neglected moving. You can begin simple weight-bearing exercises at any time, sending the message to the bone that you’d like it to start growing now! Certain areas are more prone to bone density loss The ribs, wrists, hips and spine are the most common places to lose bone. Let’s take the hips as an example of how these areas can become trouble zones: Your hips are designed to rotate and have a large range of motion. If you sit a lot, then they aren’t moving as much. Even if you’re walking, cycling, or even swimming, chances are you’re still only moving your hips in the same direction most of the time — in a linear pattern, straight ahead and straight behind. If you don’t move your hips in the patterns in which they were designed to move, the bone is sent the message that it doesn’t have to maintain as much density as it would need if it had to move more. 5 ways to boost your workout’s bone-building power If you’ve been exercising regularly yet developed low bone density anyway, your movement habits need to change — but you can do it fairly easily. 1. Move your body in new ways Choose exercises that work your body in different directions than you’re used to. If most of your workouts consist of walking, try yoga poses, dance workouts or t’ai chi once a week to add lateral movement. 2. Do weight-bearing exercise (but know what that means) Weight-bearing is not the same as using weights! There is a lot of confusion on this point. Weight-bearing actually refers to how much of your body weight you are holding up while exercising. For example, walking would be more weight-bearing than riding a bike. And swimming is the least weight-bearing exercise, as the buoyancy of the water is doing most of the work to hold up your body. The term “using weights” can mean any type of resistance exercise – whether it be elastic tubing, body resistance (like push-ups or yoga’s arm-balance poses), weight machines, circuit equipment, or hand-held weights. While using weights can be a great way to exercise, it is weight-bearing exercise that is critical to a bone-density-building program. Because the skeleton’s job is to hold the entire weight of the body, lifting three, five, or even 20 pound weights is not as important to bone health as is being strong enough to carry your own body mass. Learn a few weight-bearing and bone-building exercises in this video clip from my Strong Bones DVD. 3. Favor activities that get you up on your feet to load your bones with your own body weight Do the treadmill instead of an exercise bike for part or all of your workout. Walk the golf course instead of getting a cart. Stand up and do some stretches or knee lifts while you watch TV, rather than sitting on the couch the whole time. Stand at the sink to do your make-up rather than sitting at a make-up table. 4. Critique your gait and what’s affecting it Often when I am developing an exercise program for someone with low bone density in the spine, I can identify habits in their gait patterns that are decreasing the loading signals to the bone. Tight calf muscles, for example, can really affect how the heel strikes the ground while you’re walking, decreasing the vibrations that move up the leg to keep the hips strong. Learn some good stretches in my Gaiam Restorative Exercise for Foot Pain DVD. High heels (even one inch!) and excessively cushioned shoes also quiet the signal that would help build bone density in the hips and back. 5. Add balance exercises to help prevent fractures The most significant health risk for anyone with low bone density is the risk of a fracture. Falling can definitely lead to fractures or bone breaks, so balance exercises to help prevent falls should be at the top of your exercise list! Try using a “wobble board” or inflated half-ball, or include moves that strengthen one side of your body at a time, such as one-legged squats or yoga’s Tree Pose and Warrior III. When you start a new balance program, it may take awhile for your body to gain the muscle control and strength to keep you steady. Be safe! Start by standing on one leg while leaning against a wall or holding onto a chair, in time increments your body can handle. If you don’t have the strength or stability to stand on one leg, work on developing your muscle strength before you try to balance on one leg.
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What Are Weight Bearing Exercises

The best exercise for your bones is the weight-bearing kind, which forces you to work against gravity. Some examples of weight-bearing exercises include weight training, walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, tennis, and dancing. Examples of exercises that are not weight-bearing include swimming and bicycling. Although these activities help build and maintain strong muscles and have excellent cardiovascular benefits, they are not the best way to exercise your bones.
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What Are Weight Bearing Exercises

Weight-bearing is not the same as using weights! There is a lot of confusion on this point. Weight-bearing actually refers to how much of your body weight you are holding up while exercising. For example, walking would be more weight-bearing than riding a bike. And swimming is the least weight-bearing exercise, as the buoyancy of the water is doing most of the work to hold up your body.
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What Are Weight Bearing Exercises

Weight bearing exercise, which works against gravity and stimulates bone formation, is more effective in preventing osteoporosis than non-weight bearing exercises such as cycling and swimming. Walking, jogging, climbing stairs, tennis and dancing are often recommended for people with osteopenia. Johns Hopkins Health Alert adds that running and jumping have been shown to be particularly effective in enhancing bone formation. Work out with hand-held free weights, and consult an exercise specialist to craft a safe and effective workout tailored to your abilities. The NIAMSD website recommends at least two sessions of resistance training per week, with eight to 12 repetitions of eight to 10 exercises.

What Are Weight Bearing Exercises

Certain resistance exercises, including calisthenics and resistance bands, build bone mass as long as they are exercises that make your body work against gravity, says Valentour. (In general, for instance, standing exercises are more effective than seated ones.) Resistance exercises cause your muscles to flex and strengthen, which in turn pulls on your bones, triggering osteogenesis.

What Are Weight Bearing Exercises

High-impact weight-bearing exercises help build bones and keep them strong. If you have broken a bone due to osteoporosis or are at risk of breaking a bone, you may need to avoid high-impact exercises. If you’re not sure, you should check with your healthcare provider.

What Are Weight Bearing Exercises

It’s important that your doctor approves any strenuous weight-bearing exercise routine, especially if you’re over 60 or have osteoporosis, osteopenia (mild bone loss) or arthritis. But research suggests that even lower-impact exercises—like walking, light weight lifting and most yoga poses—also help to build bone. A recent study of the effects of dieting and exercise on hip bone density found that those study participants who walked regularly built significantly more bone mass than those who simply lost weight. If you’re able to work up to higher-impact activities—like running, jumping rope or aerobic dance— you’ll build more bone density.

What Are Weight Bearing Exercises

The Latest Weight-Bearing Workout Trends What are the best ways to exercise and improve your bone health when you have osteoporosis? Try weight-bearing workouts that stress bones and muscles more than your everyday life, says Paul Mystkowski, MD, an endocrinologist at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle and clinical faculty member of the University of Washington in Seattle. Talk to your doctor and make sure the workout you choose is safe for you. Then give these latest trends a try! 1. Tai Chi Tai chi — a form of slow, graceful moves — builds both coordination and strong bones. A study reported in Physician and Sportsmedicine found that tai chi could slow bone loss in postmenopausal women. The women, who did 45 minutes of tai chi a day, five days a week for a year, enjoyed a rate of bone loss up to three-and-a-half times slower than the non-tai-chi group. Their bone health gains showed up on bone mineral density tests. 2. Yoga A study reported in Yoga Journal found an increase in bone mineral density in the spine for women who did yoga regularly. From the slow, precise Iyengar style to the athletic, vigorous ashtanga, yoga can build bone health in your hips, spine, and wrists — the bones most vulnerable to fracture. Standing poses like Warrior I and II work the large bones of the hips and legs, while poses like Downward Dog work the wrists, arms, and shoulders. Both the Cobra and Locust poses, which work the back muscles, may preserve the health of the spine. Yoga also sharpens your balance, coordination, concentration, and body awareness — and thus helps prevent falls. 3. Brisk Walking One fitness trend that never goes away, walking is still hugely popular among women — and a great way to revamp your bone health. A study of nurses found that walking four hours a week gave them a 41% lower risk of hip fractures, compared to walking less than an hour a week. Brisk walking is best, but you can adapt your speed to your current fitness level. Walking is free, and you can do it anywhere, anytime, even when you’re traveling.

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