Readers often send me letters asking about weight-bearing exercise. What does weight bearing mean? And why is it so good for us?
The simple answer is you’re weight bearing whenever you’re standing.
The great benefit of standing is that the weight of your whole body is pulling down on your skeleton. This doesn’t only help to keep your bones strong, it tones muscles.
And some of them are the biggest muscles in the body, such as your quads and hamstrings.
Plus, if you stand in a good posture it improves core strength. Not bad for just standing!
The big bonus is that doing exercise while you’re weight bearing forces you to work against gravity and that keeps your bones strong.
Research tells us that if you then add some “impact” (an additional force or jolt) while you exercise, this is even more effective at strengthening bones.
The Royal Osteoporosis Society describes different levels of impact exercise, depending on how much force is going through your body.
Lower-impact exercise is where there’s a small amount of impact through the legs, for example, walking. Moderate-impact exercise would be jogging, and high impact is where a large force is absorbed by the legs as in star jumps, or sports such as basketball and gymnastics.
What’s the best advice on physical activity and exercise for people with osteoporosis? Well, research shows exercise is safe and you’re unlikely to break bones but you may need to adapt what you do.
And it’s wise to start off with some balance exercises first to help you avoid injuries.
If you have osteoporosis and are generally fit and well and haven’t broken any bones, you should aim to build up to doing moderate-impact exercises with up to 50 reps most days (such as 50 hops, low jumps or skips).
Bones like variety, so ring the changes with jogging, dancing, team sports or racquet sports.
If you’ve had a spinal fracture or other breaks you can still do lower-impact exercises for about 20 minutes on most days such as brisk walking, climbing stairs and gentle heel drops.
If you can’t do regular exercise try to avoid long periods of sitting down by standing up or moving around for a few minutes every hour.