By Maryann Hammers
Your bones have supported you all these years. Isn’t it time you returned the favor?
Sure, you make certain your diet includes plenty of calcium and ample Vitamin D, but diet is just half the battle. Exercise—especially weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening moves—is the other 50 percent of the equation. Balance exercises can also help you get stronger while reducing your risk of a broken bone.
“The idea is to build bone and muscle strength to protect from falls,” says Nathan Wei, MD, a rheumatologist who practices in Frederick, Maryland.
“Exercise slows bone density loss, and osteoporosis is less prevalent in people who are active. Exercise may also prevent osteopenia from becoming osteoporosis,” adds certified personal trainer Carol Michaels, co-author of Exercises for Cancer Survivors (FriesenPress, 2013), and founder of Recovery Fitness in New Jersey.
Here’s what your bone-building regime should include:
- Weight-bearing exercises
With these exercises, you stand upright and work against gravity—so bicycling and swimming don’t count, notes podiatrist Suzanne Fuchs, DPM, a foot and ankle surgeon in New York City and Long Island.
Instead, she recommends dancing, aerobics, hiking, stair climbing, jumping rope, tennis, fast walking, and jumping jacks—“even just stomping your feet.”
“Strengthen your feet and ankle bones—they are the foundation of your body,” says Fuchs.
Try it: You might as well—jump. Women who jumped 10 or 20 times, twice daily, had significantly improved hipbone mineral density after 16 weeks, a recent study showed. So go ahead and jump.
Be Smart: If you are at high risk for osteoporosis or if you’ve broken a bone, stick with low-impact exercises. Stay off the tennis court and try fast walking instead of jogging. And get your doctor’s OK first.
Aim for: The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends 30 minutes daily, either in one session or spread throughout the day.
- Strengthening/resistance moves
Lifting weights or using exercise bands and weight machines fit in this category.
Try it: You don’t belong to a gym? No problem: The American Council on Exercise (ACE), which certifies fitness professionals, recommends easy-to-learn, do-at-home exercises (squats, side lunges, and seated row). For details, click here.
Aim for: Perform one to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions two or three days a week.
Be Smart: “Start with light weights, increasing the number of repetitions before increasing weight,” says personal trainer Ines Hatch, an orthopedic exercise specialist based in Tyrone, Georgia. “This slowly increases muscle strength while building endurance.”
- Balance-building exercises
Balancing exercises (Tai Chi is a good one) reduce your risk of taking a tumble and breaking a bone.
“Falling and fear of falling is a serious problem for someone with osteoporosis. Some people become inactive due to a fear of falling, which accelerates loss of bone mass and decreases quality of life,” says Michaels.
Try it: The simplest, do-it-anywhere, balance-building move? Stand on one leg for 10 seconds; then switch legs, Michaels suggests. (The National Institutes of Health Senior Health suggests a few other easy moves here.)
Be Smart: Have something sturdy nearby—a chair or wall, for example—for support. And be sure to wear the proper footwear to help keep you steady, says Michaels.
Aim for: “Balance exercise should be performed daily, a few times each day,” says Michaels.
Tucker LA, Strong JE, LeCheminant JD, Bailey BW. Effect of two jumping programs on hip bone mineral density in premenopausal women: a randomized controlled trial. American Journal of Health Promotion. 2015 Jan-Feb;29(3):158-64. doi: 10.4278/ajhp.130430-QUAN-200.
 ACE Offers Three Moves to Care for Your Bones. ACE website. Available at https://www.acefitness.org/about-ace/press-room/425/ace-offers-three-moves-to-care-for-your-bones/. Accessed June 11, 2015.
 Exercises to try. NIH Senior Health website. Available athttp://nihseniorhealth.gov/exerciseandphysicalactivityexercisestotry/balanceexercises/01.html. Accessed June 11, 2015.