5 Steps to Stronger, Healthier Bones
Strong, healthy bones are good for everyone. Bones support us, protect our organs, and store minerals like calcium that not only nurture bone but can also be released when levels are low in the body. Peak bone wellness is even more important when disease, such as primary or metastatic bone cancer, strikes. When the patient is “demanding” that bones use their growth factors and rebuilding resources for their own health, it’s harder for bone tumors to “steal” them away from healthy bone processes.
The best possible way to “demand” bone health is by doing exercise that place a weight load on bone. Since bones naturally get rid of old bone cells and replacing them with new ones, putting load on bone forces it to direct its resources to that process. This makes bones’ normal process more constant and effective. A noteworthy animal study showed that when cancerous bone tumors have to compete with demands for healthy bone strength, the tumors have a setback.
Since weight-bearing exercise is the most effective way to put load on bones, especially the big bones in the legs and hips, here are 5 steps – or rather, step-based—kinds of exercise that contribute to bone strength and mass:
1. Walking – Okay, you’ve probably heard about walking so many times that you wonder if there’s anything walking isn’t good for! But don’t just go a leisurely amble once or twice a week. Walk as briskly as you’re comfortable with at least 4 hours per week. Think of marshalling your bones’ own ability to defend itself against fractures and disease.
2. Jogging – Picking up speed requires that you lift your feet and knees higher, which increases impact with each down step. This not only means you’re literally carrying your own weight, but you’re adding more demand on bones because of the pounding effect. However, discuss this with your doctor. If you already have thinning or cancerous bones, impact may be putting vulnerable bones at further risk.
3. Dancing – Put on your favorite music with an inviting beat and dance alone or with a partner. Even if you think you have two left feet, dance where no one is watching. Ways to get in front of a supportive cheerleader include dance CD’s or fun classes like Zumba where everyone is smiling. Dancing is not only healthy for bones, but it’s also cardiovascular-friendly as a bonus.
4. Yoga or tai chi – If brisk movement isn’t for you, slow it down. As you step into a standing pose and then hold it, you are increasing the burden on your bones. Standing poses are good for balance – an added benefit for people with fragile bones to help avoid falls. Likewise, the slow graceful steps of tai chi put load on bone. And guess what? Yoga and tai chi both provide a centering, meditative quality that is excellent for stress management. In turn, benefits the immune system and overall wellness.
5. Sports – If you enjoy friendly competition, sports that involve a ball (tennis, volleyball, squash, pickleball, etc.) keep your eye on the ball and your mind off the fact that you’re placing demands on your bones.
All of the above steps toward stronger bones are done standing up (except for the yoga floor poses). Standing exercise may be the easiest weightbearing movement to incorporate into daily life. What are you waiting for? Start stepping into greater bone health today.
- Bone mets