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Fitness Articles  ›  Special Concerns

Exercising to Build Strong Bones

Use the LIVE Approach

-- By Dean Anderson, Fitness & Behavior Expert
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As with any workout program, exercising for bone-building requires lots of variety. Most exercises only work one particular muscle group in one particular way. For bone-building results, try to involve as many muscles, angles and patterns of movement as possible. You don’t have to do this in every exercise session, but you should rotate to a new set of exercises every couple of weeks.

Finally, there are lots of bone-building activities you can include in your daily routine, even though they aren’t formal exercises. Gardening is one good example. Another is making a point of getting up out of your chair without using your hands or arms for assistance. If you can’t do this now, start practicing every day by first sitting on an extra cushion or a phone book, and practicing until you reduce the amount of weight you have to support with your hands. Then remove the cushion, and do the same until you don’t need to use your hands at all. Research shows that people who can get out of a chair without using their hands have a much lower incidence of balance problems and falls, which can be very serious for older people with osteoporosis.

Although osteoporosis is often considered an age-related problem, the foundation for this problem is often set much earlier. Research shows that a person's bone density at the ages of 25-35 plays a large role in determining whether her natural decline in bone density will cause problems associated with osteoporosis and osteopenia. So, don’t wait until you’ve already got problems before you start trying to manage them. What are you waiting for? With your doctor's advice, a bone-building diet, and these exercise suggestions, you're armed and ready to strengthen those bones. So turn off your computer and get out of your chair—without using your hands.
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About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

Member Comments

  • Good information but the article left out Tai Chi as a great option for building bones. Many women, including me, have had our Dexa show increased bone density after a year of regular practice and it is low impact. It as also wonderful for improving balance! - 8/27/2013 8:00:47 AM
  • Great article. I was told that me left knee was bone against bone in February. But I been taking calcium pills for nine years. My doctor vtold me to take them because I was getting older and I needed for my bones. - 5/23/2013 7:01:11 AM
  • @ Lazybutt: You can actually buy Comfrey leaf and powder at
    . They sell a large variety of herbs and herbal products. My naturopath/chirop
    ractor recommended the site to me and she tests everything on herself before she will recommend anything to her patients. - 4/10/2012 10:26:30 AM
  • I wish the Government would allow us to buy Confrey leaf tea because that was how I had kept my bones strong and healed when I broke a bone (and it does work as needed) But not being able to tolerate milk and dairy and beef I now suffer that loss of bone! Just Because one idiotover doses on Comfrey the Government took it off the amrket! Just because one man died from it, they take it off the market, but I wonder how many people are disabled now because of not being able to buy comfrey to keep their bones healthy. I used to take comfrey to keep my bones strong now suffer with osteoporosis bones? I wonder how many other persons my age are dealing with osteoporosis bones due to the Governments ignorance about comfrey? Now Medicare users are relying on all kinds of prsthesis and surgery to help those who have bone loss. Government is paying for ist intrusion into peoples personal livesby added cost to Medicare! - 8/25/2011 1:13:56 PM
  • i wish I knew about this when I was in High school! Its when I first broke a bone! - 8/25/2011 1:05:01 PM
    Lack of estrogen can also contribute to thinning bones. 13 years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to have chemo in addition to radiation and surgery. The chemo caused me to go into menopause, plus I was on medication to block any estrogen from getting into my cells. I was diagnosed with osteopenia & told to take 2 Calcium + Vit D supplelments, which I've done all these years. Several months after I went off the breast cancer medication I had another DEXA scan (bone density test) and my bone density actualy INCREASED - my bone density is now normal for my age (59) and I no longer have osteopenia.

    So, find out if any of your medications have any effect on bone density, and check with your doctor to see if you need to take calcium supplements.

    I switched from using the elliptical machine at the gym to working out with the Walk Away the Pounds videos from Leslie Sansone. The more advanced ones feature a bigger range of motion and light weights for strength training. The elliptical machine only provides a forward and backward motion, while the videos offer knee lifts, kick backs, side steps, etc. I also burn more calories with the videos than I did with the elliptical machine, even though I used a resistance program on it. - 8/25/2011 1:00:31 PM
  • Good information. I eat very little dairy because of lactose-intoleran
    ce and while I try to get calcium any way I can, this article reminds me that there are additional things I can do to protect my bones. I don't run as much as I used to due to recent Plantar Fasciitis problems, and this article reminds me that I need to make more of an effort to find a way to do load bearing exercises. - 8/25/2011 11:30:43 AM
  • I was diagnosed 2 years ago with osteopenia and come from a family with a history osteoporosis. This was a great informative article! - 8/25/2011 8:30:08 AM
    Great article. Thank you very much. I have Crohn's disease and am treated with prednisolone, which can cause osteoporosis. So I am always looking for ways to counteract this and improve my bone density. I previously thought all exercise helped, but was interested to learn about the gravity thing. So glad I have taken up running! - 8/25/2011 2:18:51 AM
    I use my hands to get into and out of chairs/seats because of severe knee pain with bone-on-bone arthritis. I keep doing my physical therapy exercises but it doesn't seem to be helping much. I'll keep at it.

    Terrific article. I think Dean's articles are the best on Spark! - 7/7/2011 7:06:16 PM
  • I was recently diagnosed with osteopenia...than
    k you, thank you, thank you for this article! - 6/22/2011 9:38:20 PM
  • Interesting article. Actually, osteoporosis is one of the few conditions where being THIN is a risk factor, in addition to a number of others. Mine was that I'd been on steroids off and on throughout my life, for control of Crohn's disease. Something to think about for budding athletes who think steroids will help them bulk up. True, those are different steroids, but the effects on bones are the same.
    You can find more info here:

    - 8/7/2010 8:59:07 AM
  • Having just tripped and fallen this evening, I can testify of the accuracy of Dean's article. I fell flat on my face on the driveway and only have a couple of abrasions on my hand. If I was still in my 230 pounds days, I would have probable been much worse.

    I really liked the information about bones being made up of living cells that are constantly being replaced and the more exercise we do, the more active and stronger these new cells become. I'll remind myself of that during my strength training tomorrow morning with a sore body! - 3/17/2010 11:08:43 PM
  • GREAT ARTICLE! I hadn't seen some of the ideas presented in this article so thank you. I was very interested to learn that speed walking on a flat surface is not very beneficial as a load bearing exercise and that getting in and out of chairs without using my arms would be a good habit to adopt. Thanks again. - 3/10/2010 12:27:52 PM
  • I've noticed that my ankles seem to be weak. Will my workouts (similar to what you have mentioned here) help with this? Should I be looking for exercises that target my ankles? - 2/7/2010 11:12:46 AM
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