Swimming and bicycling are great exercises. But if you’re at risk for osteoporosis or you want stronger bones, you need something else.
Researchers have found that jumping and resistance activities—not cardio or endurance workouts—promote stronger bones.
Dr. Pamela Hinton is an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri. She led a study that examined which workouts were best for bone health.
Dr. Hinton notes that previous research shows that while low-impact exercises such as swimming and cycling are beneficial for overall health, they do not strengthen the skeleton.
“You really need to do specific exercises to protect your bone health,” she said.
Dr. Hinton and her colleagues set out to find which types of workouts are best for strong bones. They took two groups of men who had low-bone mass and split them into two groups. One performed resistance exercises, primarily lunges and squats. The other group did various types of jumps.
After a year, researchers analyzed the participants’ bones.
Both groups had lower levels of sclerostin. This is a protein associated with bone loss. The less sclerostin you have, the more bone formation you have.
But there was another significant change: Both groups had an increase in the hormone IGF-1. Unlike sclerostin, it triggers bone growth.
Both resistance and jump training had similar beneficial effects on markers of bone strength, Dr. Hinton said. That’s why she suggests you combine the two types of exercises to optimize bone health.
Her research was published in the journal Bone.
Do These 5 Exercises to Help Prevent Osteoporosis
Here are five exercises included in Dr. Hinton’s study that promote bone formation:
- Single-leg jumps. Stand one your right leg. Bend your right knee slightly. Then jump and land on the ball of your foot. Repeat three more times before switching to your left leg. Do three sets.
- Double-leg jumps. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms straight out in front of you. Jump upwards and forward as far as you can. As soon as you land, jump again. Jump five times. Do three sets.
- Jump rope. Jump on the balls of your feet. Your heels should never touch the ground. Jump rope for 30 seconds. Rest. Do three more sets.
- Dumbbell lunges. You need light dumbbells. Use any weight 10 pounds or under that feels comfortable. From a standing position, lunge forward with your right leg until your left knee nearly touches the floor. Push off your right leg to return to a standing position. Repeat with the opposite leg. Take 10 steps. Do three sets.
- Dumbbell squats. Using light dumbbells, start from a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly bend your knees, keeping your back straight and head up. When your thighs are parallel to the floor, push with your legs to return to a standing position. Repeat five times. Do three sets.
By doing each of these exercises twice a week or more, your bones will start to add mass and strength…and you’ll be at lower risk for osteoporosis and fractures.
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