If you’re 50 or older, you have a high chance of breaking a bone. Ten million Americans already have full-blown osteoporosis, with brittle and fragile bones. But fortunately, exercise has been proven to prevent osteoporosis and benefit bone health, which means high- or low-impact aerobic and weight-bearing exercises are a smart addition to any fitness routine.
High-impact exercises include activities such as dancing, step aerobics, hiking, jogging, or running. Imagine a runner’s foot hitting the ground while running, and the impact moving from the foot to the ankle to the knee and hip. This transfer of energy causes bone stimulation, which in turn actually strengthens bones. Doctors recommend that people who can do so engage in high-impact activities because that bone stimulation is an excellent way to maintain bone health. (If you are able to do high-impact activity, know your limits and be aware of unusual pain or discomfort that may indicate injury.)
However, many people cannot participate in high-impact activities due to low bone density, bone or joint damage, or a number of other reasons. Low-impact exercises include a large range of activities that do not aggravate joints, such as using an elliptical machine or walking outside on a paved, smooth path. Low-impact exercises are accessible for most people, but are ideal for those who already have lower bone density. I recommend climbing stairs, or low-impact step aerobics classes that can be found at gyms or senior centers. If your doctor has told you to participate in low-impact exercises, be sure to not overuse your back or add stress to joints to avoid injury.
The final branch of exercise to consider for bone health is muscular strength. These exercises include weight lifting, bodyweight exercises (done without machines or special equipment), and functional training. These movements increase your ability to more effectively do either high- or low-impact cardiovascular exercises. Depending on your fitness level, I suggest using weight machines, cable machines, or low-weight free weights. If you are not ready for those, bodyweight exercises are excellent for both beginners and advanced individuals. I personally use the TRX system as an aid for bodyweight exercises with my clients to provide a challenging and effective workout. Good form is essential to prevent injury, so I suggest working with either a personal trainer or a group fitness class to ensure proper form and technique.
If you are over the age of 50, consider getting a bone-density scan. With accurate knowledge of your current bone health, you can decide what form of exercise is appropriate for your body. Then make a commitment to engage in either high- or low-impact aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes three to five times per week. Additionally, plan for two to three muscular strength- focused exercise sessions a week. Always speak to your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine.
Prioritizing building bone strength and maintaining good balance will help you avoid fractures and keep you moving strong well into old age.
Kyle Ciminski is a personal trainer at the Fidalgo Pool & Fitness Center in Anacortes. He holds over 30 professional certifications, and you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 360-969-1386. Learn more at trainwithkyle.com.