Just about everyone knows exercise is important for preventing and treating osteoporosis.¬† But do you know which types of exercises are safe?¬† Which exercises actually build bone density? Have you heard of impact exercise? ¬†Impact exercises generate a mechanical load on your bone through ground reaction forces. The force from the ground stimulates bone growth. Examples are step-ups, dancing, and various hopping exercises.¬† If you are not already doing impact exercises, you should start. ¬†This article teaches you how.
Bone best responds to mechanical stimuli applied either through impact with a surface, like the ground or through muscle contractions.¬† Walking is not an adequate stimulus to develop bone because the impact forces with the ground are low.¬† Also, walking requires only low-force muscle contractions that are inadequate to trigger bone changes.
Impact Exercises Proven to Increase Bone Density and Function
A 2021 study through the International Osteoporosis Foundation looked at changes in bone density and physical function following home-based impact exercise.¬† Fifty postmenopausal women with low bone density performed daily single-leg hopping exercises for 4 months.
After the study, no participants reported injuries related to the exercise program.¬† Significant improvements in hip and lower leg bone density were observed after only 4 months, ranging from 1% to 3%.¬† Also, chair stand and stair climb times improved significantly after the exercise program.¬† Sustaining such an exercise program for longer would likely lead to even greater improvements.
Before You Get Started with Impact Exercises¬† ¬†¬†
We do not recommend everyone begin with high-intensity jumping exercises.¬† Before starting impact exercises it is important you have a strong base of strength.¬† This base is developed through foundational weight-bearing exercises like the squat, lunge, and deadlift.¬† Also walking with a weighted vest and performing spine strengthening exercises are great ways to prepare your body for impact exercises.¬† We recommend you perform these types of exercises for 6 to 8 weeks before starting impact exercises.¬† If you are unsure, always speak with your doctor first.
4 Simple Impact Exercises to Build Bone
Step-ups are a great way to start training with impact exercises.¬† Be sure to add weight in the form of hand weights or a backpack.¬† Shoot for at least 10% of your body weight as a starting load.¬† This is needed to create the ground reaction and muscles forces necessary to stimulate bone changes. Perform 3 to 5 short sets (4-8 repetitions) with increasing loads (10% to 30% of your body weight).¬† For an additional stimulus make the step higher.
Jumping jacks are done in your home or just about anywhere.¬† Start with your body weight but over time add weight using a backpack or vest.¬† Also, this is not meant to be an aerobic exercise.¬† Keep the repetitions intense and the sets short (only 5 to 10 repetitions).¬† Repeated (3 to 5 sets) bursts of loading are best to stimulate the bone.
Ankle hops in place introduce your body to a little more impact.¬† This creates greater ground reaction forces than the step-up.¬† You really want to push hard into the ground or floor.¬† Do this exercise in front of a chair or counter just in case you become unbalanced.¬† The first few sessions may lead to muscles soreness in your calf.¬† This will resolve after a few days.¬† Do 3 to 5 sets of 5 to 10 repetitions daily.¬† To increase the stimulus, add a backpack, weighted vest, or hold hand weights.
Overhead medicine ball slams incorporate many muscles throughout your body.¬† When you attempt to slam the ball really hard it actually causes you to jump a bit from the ground.¬† The strong muscle contractions and force through the ground are ideal for bone building.¬† Do 3 to 5 sets of 4 to 5 repetitions daily.¬† Start with a light-weight ball (around 2 pounds) but progress up to 8 or 10 pounds with practice.¬† For safety, stand near a wall or chair just in case you become unbalanced.
Your Physical Therapist Will Help You Develop the Best Exercise Program
Spend a good 6 to 8 weeks getting stronger with the strength training exercises we recommend.¬† Then start to add in these 4 impact exercises.¬† Combining weight-bearing strength training with impact exercises is your best medicine for osteoporosis.
Many people we work with prefer to get started with the help of their physical therapist.¬† Your therapist will guide and hold you accountable along the way.¬† Contact us for help developing the program that is best for your abilities and goals.