Five exercises to strengthen bones and ward off osteoporosis

woman stretching by the ocean
Once again our health comes down to how we treat our bodies.

It’s no secret that bone health becomes even more important as we age.

Our bones naturally become more brittle and prone to breakage as the years go by and properly managing bone strength and durability through diet and exercise is an important part of keeping them stronger for longer and warding off diseases such as osteoporosis.

More than 1 million Aussies are living with osteoporosis and many more aren’t doing enough to protect themselves from the disease. Osteoporosis occurres when bones lose minerals such as calcium more quickly than the body can replace them, causing a loss of bone density.

Osteoporosis Australia says diet and exercise are two of the most effective ways to prevent the disease.

Calcium and vitamin D found naturally in foods dairy foods and eggs are key ingredients for preserving bone strength, while vitamin K2, found in meat, eggs and dairy foods, especially fermented products such as cheese and yoghurt, has been shown to slow down the rate of bone weakening after menopause and boost the effectiveness of osteoporosis medications.

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Read more: The diet changes you should make in your 60s

Nutrition and exercise scientist Kathleen Alleaume says doing the right exercises, rather than the most sweat-inducing, are an important prevention method.

“There is a lot of information available about the importance of protecting your skeleton, but there is still clearly a need to do more to ensure people understand how they can safeguard their bones now, and into the future,” she said.

“While many are aware that calcium and vitamin D are key ingredients for building and preserving strong bones, vitamin K2^ also plays an important role in regulating calcium uptake from the arteries to the bones and is therefore essential for optimal bone and heart health support2.

“Coupled with this, it is crucial to incorporate regular movement into your day and focus on exercises that help to maintain strong bones.”

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She’s shared her five top exercises for over-60s to improve bone health.

1. Weight bearing exercises

As the name suggests, weight bearing exercises are a group of activities that are performed while on your feet, meaning you bear your own body weight. Because of the weight-bearing force involved with these actions, it is arguably the best form of exercise for helping to preserve bone density and build bone strength. Jump rope, jogging on the spot and aerobic dance are all great examples of weight bearing exercises.

2. Body weight training

Technically referred to as calisthenics, body weight exercises are a simple, cheap and effective way to increase body strength and improve balance and flexibility. They don’t require machinery or extra equipment and involve movements such as pulling or pushing yourself up using only body weight for resistance. Examples include push-ups, chair dips, lunges, wall sits or stair climbing.

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3. Resistance training

Another term for exercises using an external force to stimulate muscle contraction, leading to increases in muscle size, strength, endurance and tone. Resistance training is generally conducted through the use of equipment like dumbbells or resistance bands, which can be easily purchased from your local sporting goods store. These exercises are great at increasing bone mineral density, which is essential in preventing the decline in bone mass and ageing-associated diseases such as osteopenia (lower bone density) and osteoporosis (brittle bones). Other benefits include reduced risk of falls (via improved balance and flexibility) and preventing further muscle mass loss.

4. Isometric exercises

Isometric exercises help strengthen and tone muscles without joint or muscle movement and can be performed with or without added resistance. Some ideal exercises include planks, wall sits, glut bridges or warrior poses. One of the great things about isometric training is that it takes minimal time and requires no equipment at all!

5. Pilates/yoga

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Many people turn to yoga or pilates as a way to exercise gently, reduce tension and improve joint flexibility and balance. It can also help to improve muscle strength as some poses are held for a longer amount of time (similar to isometric training). The Navasana, Uttplutih, Bakasana poses are perfect for maximising strength and flexibility.

World Osteoporosis Day is Friday 20 October.
Read more: Study reveals the best diet for women to combat bone loss

What do you do to protect your bone health? Have you changed your diet to suit your health needs as you age?