Health & Family

5 exercise tips for keeping bones strong

Exercise builds muscle. But guess what else it does? It makes bones – living tissue that they are – denser and stronger. Work those puppies and they'll work for you.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation tells us that two types of exercise are important for building and maintaining bone strength and density:

Weight-bearing, impact exercises: These include activities that make you move against gravity while being upright.

Resistance and strengthening exercises: These include actions where you move weights, your body or other resistance against gravity.

The NOF goes into plenty of detail on its site (www.nof.org) about these. Here are five of its best tips to help you keep your bones strong and osteoporosis at bay.

1. If you are not frail and don't have osteoporosis, try these: Dancing, hiking, jumping rope, playing tennis, running or jogging, high-impact aerobics.

2. If you are frail, or the idea of actually doing the above makes you roll your eyes or start to giggle, try these: elliptical training machines, walking, stair-step machines, low-impact aerobics.

3. To increase muscle strength and reduce the risk of broken bones and falls, try these: balance exercises such as tai chi; posture exercises, which decrease the risk of fractures; functional exercises in which you practice such activities as sitting in a chair and standing up until you are tired.

4. These are great as part of an exercise program: swimming, water aerobics, bicycling or indoor cycling. They don't build bones, though, so be sure to include weight-bearing exercises that do.

5. How much, how often? Do the weight-bearing, impact variety for 30 minutes (at once or in 10-minute increments) almost every day. For the resistance-strengthening exercises, aim for two or three times a week.

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