Exercise is an integral part of your routine, no matter how old you are. For kids, it helps build healthy habits, for young adults, it’s a great way to stave off stress and the dreaded freshman fifteen. It’s important to stay active at every stage of life in order to stay healthy. Some of the benefits are obvious, like weight loss and general maintenance, gaining strength and flexibility, and keeping blood pressure low. However, the benefits of exercise don’t end there.
People often forget that exercise is a wonderful way to strengthen your bones in addition to muscles. Bones, like the rest of your body, are made of living cells that continuously develop over your lifetime. It is just as important to do exercises to strengthen your bones as it is to strengthen your muscles. Exercise in conjunction with a healthy diet will help to avoid and combat brittle bones, arthritis, and osteoporosis.
High impact, weight-bearing exercises are excellent for building up bone mass. Essentially, when you are fighting against gravity such as running and jumping, it helps to strengthen your bones by temporarily increasing the amount of stress placed on your bones–just as other exercises stress the muscles to help them gain strength.
Dancing is a great way to get in a high impact exercise that uses all of your body while acquiring a new skill. Some fun, fast-paced daces to help get you moving are swing, hip-hop, and tango. All the jumping and quick steps are great for getting in a good, high impact workout that will also keep your mind off the fact that you are exercising while you have fun. Dancing is even better when you bring a friend or spouse with you to learn! Make it a couple’s activity or a girls’ day out to help your loved ones stay healthy too.
Sports are also an excellent way to keep yourself moving and have fun while doing it. The constant running, throwing, and kicking will make sure you’re using your body and that you are getting an excellent high-impact workout. Soccer is a great example of a sport that will keep you moving throughout the game. With all the running up and down the field to keep up with the ball, you are sure to get a high-energy workout that will help build up your bone density. Other good examples include basketball, football, and tennis. Just be sure to use the necessary safety equipment whenever you are participating in a sport.
If you’re after something that you can do as part of a routine, try a HIIT workout. HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training and is known for being a great cardio routine. The best part is that there are all kinds of routines available from beginner level to advanced that you can try out. HIIT will often include exercises like burpees, boxing, and jumping jacks that the routine will rotate through. It’s hard to get bored during a HIIT workout because they move so quickly. With all the jumping around and quick movements, HIIT is a great way to exercise both your muscles and your bones.
If you are someone who might struggle with a high impact workout, such as those of us recovering from injury or who have chronic joint issues, don’t worry. There are still plenty of exercises that are easier on your body than the high-impact exercises listed above. Weight-bearing exercise is also a wonderful way to gain bone mass and prevent joint and bone health issues later in life.
Bodyweight exercises are perfect for those of us who might not feel ready to start pumping iron just yet, or who can’t get to the gym. Bodyweight exercises are precisely what they sound like–exercises that are done using only the weight of your own body to work your muscles. Exercises like push-ups, squats, and sit-ups are perfect for building up some good muscle mass around your joints to help keep them stable, as well as stressing your bones just enough to build them up and make them stronger as well. If you have been doing bodyweight exercises for a while and feel like maybe you aren’t getting as much out of it as you did when you started, try stepping it up by doing more intense exercises like jump squats and burpees, or add pulses to get that oh so sought after burn.
If bodyweight exercises just won’t cut it for you, adding weights is another great way to build up bone mass. Free weights are an excellent way to get in a versatile workout at the gym or at home. Adding dumbells to a bodyweight workout is great for getting that feeling that you are kicking it up a notch and can be gradually added depending on how ready you feel you are. Dumbells and kettlebells provide a greater range of motion than the machines available at the gym (though those are not without merit) and can help build up muscles and healthy bones in spots that can be hard to get to otherwise. Lateral raises will help to build up the deltoid muscles, which will support your shoulders, while bent-over rows will help strengthen your back. Free weights can also be used in leg and ab workouts for added difficulty.
Many people worry about the strength of their bones but aren’t sure how to combat the natural weakening of their bones with age. The good news is that your skeletal health is something that you can help with a proper diet and exercise. Along with getting plenty of protein, vitamin D, and calcium, high intensity and weight-bearing workouts can aid in keeping your bones strong and healthy. Remember to start slow if you are new to exercise and speak with your doctor about workouts that might be more intense than you are used to. While challenging yourself is good, it is important to remember not to overexert and injure yourself. Take care of your body now, and it will thank you by keeping you healthy and happy for many years to come.