Weight bearing exercise, which is exercise done while on your feet so you bear your own weight and support your skeleton, is the key to good bone health. This includes fast paced walking (to have an effect on your bones), running, tennis or dancing.
Walking at a fast pace and jogging have been found to help strengthen bone mass – sedate and slow walking may not be as protective of bone1.
High intensity, rapid impact exercise stimulates bone cell formation. This form of exercise generally refers to weight bearing exercise that involves more load placed through the leg bones and spine, during landing after lifting one’s own body weight off the ground.
Examples of this include running, skipping, jumping, high impact aerobics and team sports such as netball.
The following general information provides a summary for management of bone health through having a healthy lifestyle.
|What to do
|Include in your daily diet:
|To meet your calcium needs, include in your daily diet:
|To meet your vitamin D needs in order to have normal absorption of calcium, choose foods that are known to have higher levels of vitamin D such as:
Check the map of Australia for guidelines on the recommended amount of sun exposure based on your location, the season and your skin pigmentation.
|Protein and phosphorus
|Caffeine and salt
For more detailed information go to Healthy living, Calcium and Vitamin D.
Physical activity & exercise
Weight bearing & high impact activities
Fifteen minutes of weight bearing exercise, four times per week is helpful for bones.
This might include:
- gym resistance training (set by a trained instructor)
- medium impact aerobics
- jumping exercises
Certain physical activities can increase your risk of fracture, so any exercise activity should first be discussed with your doctor.
These activities are also known as resistance exercises. Strength training uses weights of some kind (e.g. machines, dumbbells, ankle or wrist weights) to create resistance, which helps to build muscle mass. It includes activities that use one’s own body weight as the load (e.g. push-ups, where load is placed through the arms and shoulders).
Load placed on bone leads to increased bone formation at the site where the load is greatest. The benefit is site specific, so if you are using weights on your legs, it only benefits your leg bones.
Ideally strength training programs should be performed regularly, 2-3 times per week. Strength training is most beneficial when a small number of repetitions (e.g. 8-12) are used, and the weight is progressively increased. As your strength improves, it is best to increase the weight used in the exercise rather than increasing the number of repetitions.
There is evidence to suggest high impact loading and resistance type/strength training activities probably provide the most benefit for improving bone mineral density.
A physiotherapist can provide assistance with bone strengthening exercises and fall prevention by addressing:
- muscle strength
If you have had a fracture, a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist can tailor an exercise program to suit your needs as part of your rehabilitation.
Using warm water activities is particularly beneficial if you need to be careful with exercise. The buoyancy of the water allows for easier movement and less chance of pain. Supervised muscle strengthening exercises can help both rebuild bone and improve balance and posture, thereby assisting in the prevention of falls.
Risky exercises if you might suffer a fracture
If you have osteoporosis it may be best to avoid some of the following exercises:
|Type of exercise
|Dynamic abdominal exercises
|Sudden jerking movements
|High impact exercise
Source: Everybody’s bones: a handbook for the prevention and management of osteoporosis (3rd edition), Osteoporosis Australia, 2001
|Before you start
|Starting your program
|Keeping your program on track
If any pain is experienced during exercises, the exercises should be stopped and if the pain persists you should consult your doctor.
A word on excessive exercise
If you do not have periods, the emphasis of treatment is to restore normal period patterns and this may mean:
- changing training routines
- if you are underweight, making sure you have an adequate intake of calories from a wide variety of foods
- using the oral contraceptive pill to restore oestrogen levels
Smoking & alcohol
Smoking and excessive alcohol are known to have a negative effect on bone health and lead to a significant reduction in bone density. For more information go to smoking or alcohol.