Physical Activity and the Relationship to Bone Growth

Physical Activity and the Relationship to Bone Growth

By: Pamela Olszyk

The number one diagnosis concerning bone health is osteoporosis.  Osteoporosis is the loss of calcium and minerals from bones, which makes it easier to fracture them.  Exercising and eating calcium rich foods will help reduce the risk of osteoporosis as we age, but a sedentary lifestyle can lead to a bigger loss of bone mass.  Osteoporosis goes hand and hand with a sedentary lifestyle, poor posture, poor balance, and weak muscles.  The most important benefit to improving health is exercise!

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Benefits of Exercise for Osteoporosis

Exercising will help improve physical fitness, muscle strength, mobility, and reaction time.  Exercising will help the reduction of bone loss and can conserve the remaining bone tissue.  Increasing activity can also lead to a better mood, reduced pain, reduced risk of bone fractures, and a better sense of balance and coordination. 

Specific Exercise’s to Prevent Loss of Bone

Strength or resistance training exercises are the most important form of exercise to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.  Strength training consists of free weights that will target the major muscle groups.  Resistance training consists of resistance bands and your own body weight helping stabilize spinal muscles, increase posture.  Strength and resistance training will also help maintain bone density. 

Weight bearing activities on your feet will help support the weight we put on our bones.  Walking is the number one weight bearing aerobic exercise because it works directly on the bones in your legs, hips, and lower spine to slow mineral loss.  Walking will also help with our cardiovascular system.  As we get older falls become the number one risk; adding stability and balance exercises will allow the muscles to become stronger to prevent these accidents.

Why Exercise is Important for Bone Health

Exercise helps make the bones stronger.  Allowing our bones to stress through activities allows for an increase of calcium. 

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines for improving bone health of children and adolescents, these age groups should participate in activities such as plyometrics, moderate intensity training, and resistance training.  When completing these activities they should participate at a high intensity of less than or equal to 60% of 1 repetition max.  The guidelines suggest completing this 3 days a week for 10-20 minutes.

The ACSM also suggests for adults to preserve bone health they should complete endurance and resistance exercises. Weight-bearing endurance activities, and jumping activities should be completed for 30 to 60 minutes 3 to 5 days a week. Resistance exercises should be completed at a moderate to high intensity for 30 to 60 minutes 2 to 3 times a week. 

The ACSM also suggests for “elderly men and women to incorporate weight bearing endurance and resistance activities aimed at preserving bone mass, but also activities designed to improve balance and prevent fall.”