01 Aug What is weight-bearing exercise and why is it important?
Regardless of your age or life stage, the right kinds of exercises can strengthen your bone density across your life span.
Have you ever heard of the saying ‘pressure creates diamonds’?
Our bones remodel and regrow themselves when there is a stimulus from the external environment. One of the best ways to achieve this is to perform movements where our body is upright and working against gravity – think dancing, hiking, walking, climbing, tennis, netball, skipping, aerobics – anything where the body is sustaining impact. This is also the reason why astronauts have low bone density when they return from outer space!
Interestingly, our bones respond best to this weight-bearing exercise when the movements are comprised of short, high intensity bursts. This is great news for anyone starting out! By simply choosing the stairs instead of the escalator, or playing a quick game of ball with the kids, you can boost your bones anywhere, any time.
Another way to fast track bone strength is by engaging in resistance training. This style of exercise is about using your muscles to move an external force, and, in turn, the muscles pull on the bones. Any session which uses machines, free weights, ankle weights or your own bodyweight can achieve muscular strength, and therefore enhance bone strength.
Exercise needs to be optimally challenging to have noticeable effects on bone density. Over time, it should become progressively harder – the weights should become heavier, and the impacts should become higher (e.g. using a higher step in an aerobics class). The bones also love variety, so moving in many different directions is key.
If you’re not sure where to start, let’s keep it simple: take a brisk walk outdoors (where you can get some Vitamin D exposure), including some uphill bursts, for 30 minutes. Not only will your bones reward you by strengthening themselves up, but your heart, lungs and mental health will all benefit as well!