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Bone Density and Exercise

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 8/5/2011

Exercise for bone density is said to be greatly beneficial. Here you will learn about the possible benefits and how bone density and exercise are related.

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    Bone density refers to matter per square centimeter of bone. Exercise for bone density is effective, but not all exercise is. Both overall bone health and bone density can benefit from exercise. It is important to know which exercises to do because some may actually reduce bone density. No patient should start an exercise regimen without getting permission from their doctor first. Low bone density is medically referred to as osteopenia. It may lead to stress fractures, osteoporosis, other fractures and other bone injuries.

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    Exercise Characteristics

    There are three different exercise characteristics that have been proven to have a significant impact on increasing bone density. These include the exercise's strain magnitude, the exercise's strain frequency and the exercise's strain rate. It is not yet known which of these three characteristics is most important. It is said that performing exercises with these characteristics three days a week for 12 to 20 minutes each time is sufficient to decrease bone density, though longer workout sessions will help more as long as the patient is healthy enough.

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    Which Exercises Should I Do?

    When building an exercise for bone density program, it is important to choose the right exercises. To prevent bone loss and increase bone density, the following are recommended:

    • Weight training (squats are highly beneficial)
    • Jump training
    • Body weight exercises
    • Running
    • Backpacking
    • Plyometrics
    • Stair running
    • Jump roping
    • Hiking
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    Activities that May Decrease Bone Density

    Bike riding and swimming are not considered beneficial in increasing bone density. In fact, there is evidence showing the elite cyclists may actually experience a decrease in their bone density when they are participating in high intensity racing and training. Why elite cyclists lose bone density is not fully understood, some theories include little strain magnitude with this activity, a possible energy imbalance when performing intense exercise and losing large amounts of calcium and certain other minerals during hours of sweating.

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    Risk Factors of Low Bone Density

    In addition to the wrong exercises, other factors may contribute to low bone density. These may include amenorrhea, not getting enough vitamin D or calcium or eating disorders.

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    Adding Nutrition to Increasing Bone Density

    A person needs to do more than just certain exercises to increase their bone density. Combining weight-bearing exercises with good nutrition is key in building bone mass. It is important to build bone mass during the younger years because once a person is around 30 years of age, building bone takes more than it did before 30. Getting adequate calcium is also crucial, as is getting adequate amounts of vitamin D. To maintain bone mass, all a person has to do is exactly what they did to build it.

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    Resources

    Johns Hopkins Health Alerts. (2009). Building Bone Density with Exercise. Retrieved on November 20, 2010 from Johns Hopkins Health Alerts: http://www.johnshopkinshealthalerts.com/alerts/arthritis/JohnsHopkinsArthritisHealthAlert_3135-1.html

    MayoClinic.com. (2009). Bone Density Test. Retrieved on November 20, 2010 from MayoClinic.com: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bone-density-test/MY00304