Preventing osteoporosis—a loss of bone density that results in fragile bones—is about more than avoiding fractures later in life. Osteoporosis is a condition that can cripple and even kill.
So how can you prevent this destructive disease? In addition to making sure that your diet includes enough calcium and vitamin D, experts recommend that you stick to a regular program of weight-bearing exercise, since bone-building cells are stimulated by exercise.
What’s a weight-bearing exercise? One that puts stress on your bones. Examples include walking, stair climbing, jogging, aerobics and weight training.
Walking offers the greatest health benefit with the lowest risk. That makes it suitable for almost everyone— including first-time exercisers. All you need is some loose, comfortable clothing and a pair of athletic shoes that gives you adequate support and cushioning. The latter is especially important if you’ll be walking on sidewalks, roads or other hard surfaces (see “How to select a suitable shoe”).
If you’re looking for a workout that’s a little more challenging than walking, try stair climbing. Almost any stairs will do, including those in your office or apartment building. An alternative: Many gyms have equipment that allows you to mimic the act of climbing stairs—and you can read or watch television while you work out.
Running isn’t for everyone— the stress it puts on feet and knees make it a poor exercise choice for many. But those who enjoy it can be assured of a bone-building workout.
Aerobics classes led by an instructor are a fun way to build bone strength. If you have a recurring injury that makes it difficult or inadvisable for you to participate, try a “low-impact” aerobics class. In this variety, one foot is always kept on the ground.
Weight training is an excellent way to give your bones the workout they need. Try low-weight/high-repetition exercises, which cause fewer injuries than high-weight exercises. Start with half-pound or one-pound weights. As you grow stronger over the weeks and months, gradually increase the weight, adding a little extra only when your routine begins to feel easy.
Although not considered a weight-bearing exercise, riding a bicycle has been shown to increase bone density. The key to bone building with a bike is to make sure that the cycling you do is regular and vigorous. The amount of stress on your muscles is more important than how fast you pedal. So, for a more effective workout, tighten the tension on your stationary bike or use a more demanding gear on an outdoor bike.