As we age, our bones naturally lose their density. This loss of bone strength can lead to weak posture, osteoporosis and more frequent bone breaks, especially for older women.
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Studies have shown that regular strength training and high-impact exercises can be very effective in cultivating stronger bones. Here, we outline the effects of high-impact exercises to make sure you’re generating optimal bone health with your workouts.
Higher-impact activities actively stimulate bone growth. Subjecting bones to stress prompts them to add mass, and also helps reduce the rate of density loss as we age.
Those who pound the pavement on a regular basis have greater bone density in their legs, feet, and especially their hips bones. People over the age of 60 are more prone to hip breaks, and such breaks in people over the age of 80 can be so shocking to the system that they never recover. For these individuals, exercises for osteoporosis are vitally important. However, bone density is a concern for people of all ages, particularly those involved in contact sports like football, soccer and martial arts, which all require strong and healthy bones.
The fact is, most of us don’t consider the importance of building bone density until it’s too late and it’s already far more difficult to grow bone density.
Does Age Matter?
Younger people naturally engage in high-impact activities much more frequently than people over the age of 60. The older we get, the more important bone density becomes. As we age, we tend to slow down, reducing high-impact exercise and subsequently not stimulating bone growth needed to prevent osteoporosis and bone breaks.
That’s where a kind of Catch-22 comes in. Older individuals who have not been engaging in high-impact exercise are more likely to have bones and bodies that are incapable of handling the very types of activity most likely to improve bone health.
The best case scenario? Exercise regularly, intensely and early on. The more fit we are, the lower our risk for injury becomes and the more able we will be to handle higher impact activities and generate even better bone health.
It’s not hard to add some high impact activities to your everyday workouts. In fact, something as simple as hopping 10 to 20 times per day counts. Here are some more examples:
Most gyms have boxes or adjustable risers used for plyometric training. To strengthen your bones, do three sets of 15 to 20 jumps. Simply jump up on top of the box, landing with both feet at the same time and hop back down for one reptition. Doing this three to four times per week will not only strengthen your bones, but it will add a little cardio, which increases your metabolism and helps burn fat. Win-win, right?
Sprints engage your entire lower body in a high-intensity cardio burst. One form of sprinting exercise is called fartleks. These are best done on a marked football field or with cones to measure distance. You sprint to the five-yard line or cone, and sprint back. Then you sprint to the 10-yard line or cone, and sprint back. Once more to the 15-yard mark and back and you’ve done one fartlek. Do three to four Fartlek repetitions one to two times per week to increase bone density and strength.
A study found that women between 25 and 50 who hopped at least 10 times twice a day, with 30 seconds between each hop, significantly increased their hipbone density after four months. No equipment or extra space is needed; simply hop, hop, hop your way to stronger, denser bones. If the idea of hopping around the house doesn’t appeal to you, get a jump rope and put on some dance music to skip to the beat.
Of course, these aren’t the only high-impact exercises that help increase bone density. Stair climbing, dancing, tennis, hiking, bodyweight exercises and various strength training programs, are all high-impact weight-bearing exercises that are recommended for optimal bone health.
In an ideal world, we prevent poor bone density by performing high-impact, bone-strengthening exercises when we’re young and well into our adult lives.
However, for people were not previously who were not previously active or who had never engaged in high-impact exercise, there are still ways to benefit from bone-strengthening movements. In one study, postmenopausal women who participated in a strength-training program for a year saw significant increases in the bone density of their spine and hips, areas affected most by osteoporosis in older women.
The key is to start slowly and carefully, and to consult with a physican or personal trainer before engaging in high-impact exercises all of a sudden. Taking a conservative approach to high-impact activities after being cleared by your doctor will prevent injury and allow even high-risk people to benefit from these bone-strengthening exercises.
Remember: It’s never too late to start prioritizing your health, including your bone health. Work out often, work out hard, and be sure to enjoy rest days in-between.
The greater our bone density is, the stronger we will be, and this will keep us stay healthier for longer as we age.