Exercise and how it impacts your bones

Bone Mineral Density (BMD) is how strong and dense your bones are, with a higher BMD reducing the chance of osteoporosis and subsequent bone fracture. Exercise plays a big part in helping to optimise BMD throughout life, but what type is the best?

Exercise has been shown to increase muscle strength, endurance and power and this helps to improve a whole range of factors that can improve an individual’s quality of life. It’s the pull of the muscle tendon on the bone that creates the stimulus that leads to a site specific increase in bone density. Exercises that involve some form of impact or stress on the surface of the bone, such as jumping, running, or resistance training, are great at helping to increase or at the very least maintain BMD.

Peak bone mass is achieved at around 25 years of age. As such, for children and adolescents, the aim is to add as much bone to the bone bank as possible in these early years to lay the foundation for later in life. Activities such as jumping, gymnastics, basketball, tennis, AFL and other sports which combine running and jumping may be the best at building bone density. Then from early to mid-adulthood the aim is to optimise muscle and bone strength and overall bone health. These early deposits into the bone bank will hopefully reduce the loss of bone in older adults and maintaining muscle strength may contribute to reducing the risk of falls later in life as we age.

So what type of exercises are the best for bone health?

Maintenance of BMD – Weight bearing activities, such as running, walking, sports and bush walking..

Increasing BMD – Resistance training, that involves progressively increasing the stress on the bones and muscles is the best form of exercise for bone health.

Little or no impact on BMD – Swimming and cycling are great forms of exercise for a variety of reasons but unfortunately the research has suggested that they have little positive impact on bone health.

Exercise can benefit your bones in any stage of life, with a good consistent program that you enjoy helping you to achieve the best for your bones.

Timothy Hanson AEP ESSA
Exercise Physiologist

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