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Weight-Bearing Exercise: 8 Workouts for Strong Bones

Here are the latest weight-bearing workout trends.

The Latest Weight-Bearing Workout Trends continued...

Or try the newest aerobics, kickboxing, or step class at your health club or local Y. New classes emerge every few months to keep members motivated. A lot of them now combine strength training with dance or step moves -- and will perk up your balance as well.

6. Hiking

The work of weight-bearing -- and the impact as your feet hit the ground -- can increase bone density, especially in your hips. It's just like walking, and then some. You'll get even more impact on those bones if you're going uphill or downhill, and that can improve bone health even more. More impact on your feet and legs translates into more bone density, says the surgeon general.

And with hiking, boredom is rarely an issue. You're often socializing and meeting new people, as well as expanding your horizons as you see new landscapes.

7. Racquet Sports

Tennis, squash, and paddle tennis can rally your bone density. You're stressing your racquet arm, wrist, and shoulder every time you hit the ball, and working your hips and spine with all that running around -- and chasing down wild balls.

If you're going for racquet sports, go for singles. You'll get a lot more from your workout in terms of bone health, since you'll be running around more.

8. Strength Training

Lifting weights, using the weight machines at your health club, or doing calisthenics, are forms of strength or resistance training. You're working against some form of resistance -- whether it's a set of "free" weights, your own body weight, or weight machines -- to stress a sequence of muscles and bones. Strength training at least twice a week, says the surgeon general, is needed to stimulate bone growth.

Every gym has a trainer who can design a workout for your legs, back, shoulders, and arms -- one that's right for your fitness level and can rally your bone health.

Thin Bones Beware

Take a few exercise precautions if you already have bone thinning: 

  • Because your fracture risk is higher than normal, be cautious about trying any exercise with the potential for serious falls, like downhill skiing, ice skating, or inline skating.
  • If you have bone thinning in your spine, you may want to forgo any deep backbends in yoga.
  • Again, check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program, especially if you're taking medications that slow your coordination or throw off your balance.

One final tip: Be patient. The bone-building phase in young adults -- at its speediest -- takes three to four months, and it may take a lot longer if you have osteoporosis or are older. So you won't be seeing big changes on any bone density tests after your first week of working out. Bones change slowly -- but they do change.

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Reviewed on June 06, 2008
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Osteoporosis Glossary

  • Bone Mineral Density - A measurement of the amount of calcium and minerals in bone tissue.
  • Calcium - A mineral in (and vital to) your bones. If your body lacks calcium, it takes it from bones.
  • DEXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) - a test used to measure bone mineral density.
  • Osteoporosis - A decrease in bone density, which increase the risk of fractures.
  • Vitamin D - A vitamin that helps your body absorb calcium.
  • View All Terms

How do you exercise for strong bones?