Our skeleton has many roles: it supports our body, provides attachment points for the muscles, tendons and ligaments that enable us to move, and stores minerals like calcium and phosphorus. Without proper physical activity, our bones become weak and can fracture easily.
It can also put you at risk of developing osteoporosis: a silent bone disease that develops when bone is lost faster than it can be replaced. This can occur naturally due to not enough bone-building nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D, low levels of estrogen in women after menopause, a general decline in bone health as a result of old age, or taking medications that cause bone loss.
What you can do
Interval training and weight lifting can certainly help provide bones with a greater load than what they normally experience, but it doesn’t have to be all about going to the gym. Simple exercises and lifestyle changes like choosing to walk or climb the stairs can force bones to bear more weight and build bone strength. Here are some tips, courtesy of the osteoporosis experts at UHN’s Schroeder Arthritis Institute.
- Do your own food shopping as often as you can, and carry your own shopping bags to provide some weight-bearing to the arms and back muscles – and also indirectly to your legs (and all related bones).
- Walk more often and farther. Park your car farther away from work or the shopping centre, take regular walking breaks at work and at home, hold walking meetings or practise social walking with family and friends.
- Aim to use the stairs instead of escalators or the elevator. Try to take two stairs at a time to get a glute and quad workout while loading the bones at the hip joint.
- Regular gardening and having a vegetable plot or even a community garden can offer similar advantages. The same goes for vigorous housework.
- Other types of exercise can help you to improve your posture and strengthen your muscles so you are less likely to fall and break a bone. Tai Chi, for instance, helps to develop stronger muscles and improve balance.