A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Build bones with simple weight-bearing exercise

Do you remember your parents telling you to drink more milk to build strong bones?

If you’ve been relying only on calcium and vitamin D in food for bone health, you’ve been missing out on a key ingredient for strengthening bones and preventing osteoporosis – weight-bearing exercise.

Weight-bearing exercise is important for everyone, whether your bone density is normal or you have signs of osteoporosis.

How does weight-bearing exercise improve bone strength?

“Bone and cartilage tissue is similar to muscles, if you don’t use it you lose it,” said Marshfield Clinic Health System physical therapist Andrew Oebser. “Bones need stimulation to heal and maintain strength. This is done through loading the joints of the body.”

Building bone strength reduces the potential loss of bone density from osteoporosis later in life and the risk of breaking a bone. Doing weight-bearing exercises can help slow down the process of bone loss.

What is weight-bearing exercise?

Don’t worry, you don’t have to hit the gym and pump iron to get weight-bearing exercise.

“Weight-bearing exercise is any form of activity that places body weight or other types of load through our body, often using the force of gravity,” Oebser said.

Walking and jogging are two simple ways to add weight-bearing exercise to your day. Vary your exercise routine by trying these other types of weight-bearing exercise:

  • Stair climbing.
  • Step aerobics.
  • Exercise classes or videos.
  • Weight training with free weights or machines.

Exercises to build your bones

“Physical fitness levels vary for each individual and it is important to start at the appropriate level,” Oebser said. “One saying is: ‘don’t run to get fit but get fit to run.'”

Start with low-impact exercise. Doing too much too soon can cause injury.

Here are some simple weight-bearing exercises you can do at home.  Download and print this list for easy reference.  The same basic exercises benefit people of all fitness levels and can be modified for your ability.

printable weight bearing exercise chart

For questions about building bones, talk to a Marshfield Clinic Health System provider.

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