Top 5 Exercises to Improve Bone Density
Bone density, or bone mineral density (BMD), is an important measure of skeletal health and overall well-being. It is the amount of calcium and other minerals found in the bones and the density of the bone itself, usually measured in standard deviation according to a norm for your age. Low bone density can lead to osteoporosis, a condition that weakens the bones and makes them more prone to fractures and breaks.
The most common way to measure bone density is through dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA, sometimes called DEXA), a safe, non-invasive procedure. This scan shows the density of bones in the spine, hip, and other parts of the body. Other tests, such as ultrasound, can also be used to measure bone density, though they are not as accurate as DXA.
There are several factors that can influence bone density, including age, gender, body weight, diet, physical activity, hormone levels, and genetics. As we age, our bones naturally become less dense, leading to an increased risk of fractures and breaks. Women are also at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis than men due to their lower bone density and the hormonal changes associated with menopause.
Having a healthy diet and lifestyle can help keep your bones strong and prevent osteoporosis. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of calcium, vitamin D, and other essential nutrients helps to build and maintain bone density. Regular exercise, such as weight-bearing exercise and strength training, also helps to strengthen bones.
Nutrition is so important that suffering with anorexia or eating disorders could negative affect bone density for years in the future. The most important time to build bone density is in childhood, pre-puberty. However, it is important at any age to increase bone density through nutrition and exercise.
Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and certain medications can all have a negative impact on bone density. It is important to talk to your doctor about any potential risks associated with your lifestyle and medications.
Your doctor may recommend medications, or supplements to help prevent further bone loss and reduce your risk of fractures and breaks. Typical drugs prescribed in the early stages are known as bisphosphonates (e.g. alendronic acid), although some healthcare professionals have concerns over their use, especially the benefits, the underlying research, and the side-effects of bisphosphonates. However, if osteoporosis is more advanced and people are unwilling or unable to make dietary and lifestyle changes, then it could be a good option.
Our Top 5 Exercises to Improve Bone Density
An amazing few studies came out from Loughborough University detailing Hip-Hop from 2016 onwards, and indicating that hopping on one leg could prevent bone density loss. We’ll cover this on the last exercise, but first you need to be prepared and conditioned.
Sit to Stand – No Arm Push
Perform Daily | Repeat 5 to 10 times
Sit upright with good posture. Place your arms across your chest. Gently lean forwards and use as much leg and core strength as you can to push yourself up. If you get stuck, use one or both arms to assist. Once upright, stand up straight. When you feel comfortable, slowly sit back down, ideally with your arms across your chest. However, if you need some guidance then use your arms to assist the sitting. Try to keep a straight spine during the sitting rather than let your back round forwards too much. This exercise will strengthen your legs and core.
Partial ¼ Lunge Supported
Perform Daily | Repeat 5 to 10 times
Take a step forwards, and bend your front knee a little as your back knee drops towards the floor. Always keep good alignment: your knee should stay over the middle of your foot, and never let your knee drop inwards. Only go as far as feels comfortable and do not go into a full lunge position. This is a lower limb strengthening exercise.
Perform Daily | Repeat 10 times each side
Stand upright with good posture, next to a wall or table just in case you need support. March on the spot. Keep your knees up, and move your opposite arm with the opposite knee. Try to stay in exactly the same spot throughout your march. This exercise is good for knee mobility, endurance, balance and co-ordination. If you need support, hold on to a table or wall and perform one sided until you gain more balance.
Single Leg Balance Unsupported
Perform Daily | Hold for 1 minute
Stand on one leg, and try to keep your balance. Be careful and hold on to a wall or table for support when you first start this exercise, but as you feel more confident you can reduce contact and support from the wall or table. A single leg balance exercise such as this is an enormously valuable exercise, and its benefits including strengthening the muscles and ligaments around the ankles and knees, and improving balance.
Hopping – One Leg
Perform Daily | Repeat 6 times, over 3 sets each side
Stand on a stable surface and hold on to a table or chair for stability. Gently bend one knee and lift your opposite foot from the floor. Hop with one leg. Repeat for five sets of five repetitions each side, taking a 15 second rest between each set. This totals 18 hops each side. This exercise can help improve balance and co-ordination, as well as leg strengthening. To progress this exercise, build up to five sets of ten hops with a 15 second rest in-between sets. Also consider multi-directional hops, but take care and make sure you are safe.
Bone density is an important measure of skeletal health. Taking steps to maintain strong bones, such as eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol intake, can help to reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis. Regular bone density tests can also help to monitor your risk and alert you to any changes in your bones. We see people at Surrey Physio with fractures who are then diagnosed with osteoporosis, but also people who are worried about osteoporosis and are seeing our team for advice.
(Physios and Therapists: these videos are provided by Rehab My Patient – the best exercise prescription software for therapists to prescribe exercises www.rehabmypatient.com. Patients: if you are a patient needing advice, call Surrey Physio to book a telephone/video consultation with one of our expert physios or osteopaths, or book in face-to-face for an appointment. You can call us on 0208 685 6930 or book online by clicking the link at the top of the page).