Our bones are strong parts of our body that help support and protect our various organs. They are also vital for producing red and white blood cells, storing minerals, and enabling mobility. All of these aspects contribute to our overall health, which makes keeping them strong and healthy a priority.
Unfortunately, getting older can slowly lead to bone loss, increasing susceptibility to bone related conditions that compromise function. However, weak bones can be remedied with exercise that specifically boosts bone and muscle strength.
One-third of people over the age of 65 falls each year, leading to severe disability or even death. Exercise has been proven to prevent bone depreciation and falls in the elderly, increasing quality of life.
Here you will find some of the best bone strengthening exercises to help improve balance and support bone recovery.
15 bone strengthening exercises
Practiced all over the world for both defense training and its health benefits. While many training forms exist, tai chi is known for being composed of very slow and rhythmic movements, allowing people of old age to perform them with relative ease. The practice promotes flexibility and whole-body coordination. Previous studies found that tai chi slowed down bone loss in post-menopausal women who did the exercise 45 minutes a day, five days a week.
Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices that originated from ancient India. Yoga also highlights proper diet, processes to internally purify the body, and breathing techniques. Many variations of yoga exist, all of which promote physical and spiritual liberation through physical exercise. A study of bone mineral density in the spines of post-menopausal women who did yoga regularly noted that yoga improved bone health in the hips, spine, and wrist—all the bones most vulnerable to fracture.
Walking may not seem like exercise, but it is actually quite beneficial for the body and your bones. The best thing about walking is that most everyone can do it. A previous study found that walking for four hours a week gave participants a 41 percent lower risk of hip fractures compared to those who walked less than an hour a week. Brisk walking is defined as walking a bit faster than normal, but you can adapt your walking speed to your current fitness level to start.
This sport is not known for its rigorous activity level, but don’t be fooled. Playing golf requires you to shoulder a golf bag for multiple holes and swing big clubs. If you decide not to use a golf cart, you can add a whole lot of walking to your golf session, which helps give your hips and spine a workout.
It’s always great to have some fun while exercising, as it makes a healthy activity not seem like a chore. While not all forms of dance are great for bone health, the ones that get your heart pumping like salsa, rhumba, and the tango are strenuous enough to build strong bones. If dancing is not your thing, aerobics, kick boxing, and even step classes are considered rhythm-based exercises that combine strength and balance training.
Much like walking, hiking can be a great exercise to help strengthen bones. Since hiking is often done on uneven terrain—adding an additional element of balance that your body has to get used to—your balance with inevitably improve. Your bones will get a good work out by going up and down hills. These aspects of hiking help to increase bone density.
This includes tennis, squash, and paddle tennis, all of which help to stress the racquet arm, wrist, and shoulder every time you strike the ball. When done concurrently, this motion also engages the hips and spine in addition to all the running that these sports require. To get the best workout, choose to play singles rather than doubles.
Also known as resistance training, this can be done by lifting weights or calisthenics at home or at your local health club. You can choose to use free weights, your own body weight, or weight machines—all will have a similar effect for building bone density and muscle. It is recommended to perform strength training at least twice a week to stimulate bone growth.
A great option for seniors and people with osteoporosis, joint problems, or general deconditioning. What’s great about hip rotations is that they can be performed by anyone. Start by lifting one leg at a 90-degree angle while maintaining balance and alignment in your knee, hip, and shoulder. Now rotate the hip out slowly with control, holding the position for three to five seconds. Repeat this movement for a couple of repetitions before switching legs.
With the use of good leg support, stairs, or a bench, you can perform incline push-ups in relative safety. Your hands should be shoulder width apart with your chest out, shoulders back and down, and your body in a straight line. This is all done in the incline push-up position on your chosen object. Now, engage the glutes and abs while you lower your chest down as far as possible without putting too much stress on your joints. When in the bottom position, engage your chest and triceps, flex your back, and push yourself back into starting position.
While standing straight with your chest out, shoulders down, and neck in line with your spine, balance on one leg with the extended leg bent at a 90-degree angle. While maintaining your balance on one leg, swing the extended leg under your body as you tip your torso forward. It is important to keep your back straight while you extend your leg behind you. Your extended leg and back should be on an even plain while balancing yourself on one leg.
Using a sturdy chair, push your butt back and bend at the knees on the edge of the chair. Contract your glutes and quads on the way down and keep these muscles engaged once you’re in the seated position. Now stand up and repeat. You may also hold on to some weights for added resistance.
While standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, lift one leg in front of your body with your toes pointed outward. It is important to keep your body straight and balanced as your core is being exercised. Hold this position for a couple of seconds and bring it back to center. Now lift your leg slowly to the side of your body and hold for a couple of seconds before bringing it back to the center. Finally, lift your leg backward, behind your body, and keep it there for a couple of seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.
This exercise may prove too extraneous for the older population but could be treated as an advanced move to work up to. Start in a plank position, which is similar to the traditional push up starting position. Hold a set of study dumbbells in your hands while doing this. With hips parallel to the ground, use your bicep to pull one dumbbell off the floor while keeping your elbows close to the sides of your body as possible. Repeat on the opposite side and finish off with a push-up.
A popular bone strengthening plyometric movement, this exercise may be too strenuous for those with weak joints, so caution is advised. This exercise is essentially a “drill” that is repeatedly done for a specific amount of time and requires quick transitions between extending and contracting muscles. Start in a standing position then jump up and land in a squatted position, making sure your knees are bent when you landing.
Precautions to take while exercising
Everyone should take precautions when they exercise, especially those who are older. It is important to know your limits and not to overexert yourself when exercises become too difficult. If you have bone thinning in your spine, it is recommended to forgo any deep backbends in yoga. When in doubt, speak to your doctor about potential exercise regimens you are thinking of taking up. They’ll let you know if it’s safe.