As the year draws to a close, it's the perfect time to think about your health and set goals for the coming year. This includes doing what’s best for your bone health. Having strong and healthy bones is vital for maintaining an active lifestyle, preventing osteoporotic fractures, and ensuring mobility as you age.
In this article we will dive into some of the best exercises to end the year with strong bones. Whether you are just starting to think about bone health or you’ve already been focusing on building strong bones for years, we’ve included exercises that will help you get started, progress your workout or simply inspire you to keep doing what it takes to age actively.
Bone health and why it matters
Bone health is crucial for overall health and well-being. Over 54 million people in the US are affected by low bone density (BHOF, 2014). Strong and resilient bones not only provide structural support for the body but also play a fundamental role in mobility, protection of vital organs, and the maintenance of mineral balance essential for various physiological functions.
Believe it or not, your bones are not static structures – they are made of dynamic tissue that is constantly being built and broken down. Many factors affect this process, but one of the most impactful is exercise.
Weakened bones can lead to fractures, postural changes and an increased risk of falls. All of these things combined can significantly impact a person’s overall health and well-being. Thankfully, we know that exercise can effectively help build and maintain bone, improve posture and reduce one’s risk of falls and fractures.
Exercises to build bone
Exercises that help build bone generally fall into two categories: weight bearing and resistance exercises. These exercises help increase bone density by exerting “stress” on the bones. While it might seem counterintuitive, a healthy amount of “stress” or pressure on your bones prompts the body to adapt to that stress and become stronger.
Weight-bearing exercises involve using your own body weight and working against gravity. These exercises require your muscles and bones to support your body weight. Certain weight-bearing exercises, like squats or lunges, are done standing, which puts weight through your lower body, strengthening the muscles and bones of the hips, ankles and legs. Others, including plank variations and push-ups, are done in a position that puts weight through your wrists and arms, which helps strengthen the muscles and bones in your upper body.
Resistance exercise, sometimes called strength training or weight training, strengthens your bones and muscles by working against an added force. This could mean a resistance band, weights, an exercise ball, or a number of other things. These exercises help strengthen your bones by putting pressure or good stress on them and helping them adapt and grow stronger under that stress.
Exercises to end the year with strong bones
Now that you know how important exercise is for building bone, we have chosen 5 exercises that challenge your whole body and can help you build bone.
At Wellen, we know not every exercise is appropriate for everyone. While all of our exercises are safe for people with osteopenia or osteoporosis, we’re here to help tailor each one to your fitness level. If any of these exercises is either too hard or too easy, we’ve included modifications to increase or decrease the challenge. Start with the version of each exercise where you are both challenged and able to do the suggested sets and reps with proper form. As you become more familiar and your strength increases, you can progress to the next level. If it’s too challenging, take a step back and try a modification to build up to the more challenging versions.
Without further ado, here are 5 exercises to help you end the year with strong bones:
Push-ups are a great weight-bearing exercise that puts force through your arms and wrists. If you are unable to do a full push-up with correct form, try a more modified version of this exercise. You can perform push-ups against a wall or use a sturdy table to reduce the angle and strain. This will help you build strength over time while maintaining proper form and reducing the risk of injury. As your muscles become stronger, you can gradually progress to lower inclines until you are ready to attempt the traditional push-up on the floor.
2. Plank with shoulder taps
Plank with shoulder taps is an excellent exercise for engaging the core and shoulder stabilizing muscles, but should only be performed by someone who can comfortably hold a 30 second plank. If you find the traditional plank too challenging, you can modify by dropping to your knees while maintaining a straight line from your head to your knees. Similar to push-ups, taking a plank at an incline is also a great adjustment. These adjustments allow you to build your core strength without straining your back or putting unwanted pressure on your wrists.
3. Supine alternate toe taps
Supine alternate toe taps target the abdominal muscles with a focus on the lower abs. If your back is arching off the floor during this exercise, try supine alternate lower extremity march or abdominal drawing in maneuver. These modifications will allow you to recruit your lower abdominal muscles, while also reducing the strain on your lower back.
4. Tandem stance
Tandem stance challenges your balance by narrowing your base of support by placing one foot in front of the other. As one of the most difficult balance exercises, it is important to make sure you build your way up to this exercise. Try standing with a narrow base of support and then standing with your feet at an instep for 30 seconds before moving on to tandem stance. If you feel unsteady on your feet, stand close to a chair or countertop, keeping your hands hovering over in case you need support.
5. Lateral lunge
Lateral lunges are not only effective for strengthening the thigh muscles but also great for improving one's ability to do everyday activities like climbing the stairs or standing from a seated position. Proper execution requires a steady base and controlled movement to maintain alignment. If you feel unsteady while doing lunges, start with tame the tiger or squats. Both of these exercises target the same muscles and can provide a solid foundation.