What counts as weight-bearing exercise, the kind recommended to help keep bones strong? It’s any sustained activity you do against the force of gravity, which is essential for maintaining bone mineral density. When bones are put under strain, this triggers specialized cells to build bone. The benefit is site-specific, so that when you run, for example, the bone growth occurs primarily in your legs and hips.
The more load on the bone, the greater the benefit. Thus, high-impact or resistance workouts build more bone. Here are how activities stack up:
- Best for bones (weight-bearing/high-impact/resistance activities): running, jumping rope, aerobic dance, basketball, tennis, baseball, skiing, skating, stair climbing, hiking, weight lifting.
- Also good, but less so (weight-bearing/low-impact): walking, low-impact aerobics, most cardio machines (stairclimbers, rowers, elliptical trainers, treadmill walking).
- Least beneficial for bones (non-weight-bearing/nonimpact): swimming, cycling, yoga, Pilates.
Short bouts/stronger bones: To benefit your bones even more, divide up your exercise. Short bouts (15 to 20 minutes) of intense weight-bearing exercise, separated by at least eight hours, are more effective than one longer session. In addition, try to vary your weight-bearing activities.