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Exercise to help keep bones strong

There's a simple strategy for helping make sure your bones stay strong: Use them.

Using your bones means exercising. And the sooner you get started, the better. Building strong bones early in life may reduce your risk of developing the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis.

Beneficial activity

The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) reports that two types of exercise are key to building and maintaining strong bones: weight-bearing and resistance.

Weight-bearing exercises are those in which your bones and muscles work against gravity. Typically, they involve being on your feet. In response to the impact of your weight and the pull of your muscles, your bones build more cells and get stronger.

Examples of weight-bearing exercises include walking, skiing, tennis, baseball, soccer and basketball. Even activities such as mowing the lawn count—provided, of course, that you use a push mower rather than a riding mower.

Resistance exercises are those that you usually think of as increasing your muscle mass, such as weightlifting. But while they strengthen your muscles, these exercises also benefit your bones.

Getting started

Before starting a full-fledged exercise program, it's always good to discuss your plans with your doctor—particularly if you are frail, have had a fracture, fall frequently, or already have osteoporosis or other health problems.

Even if you do have osteoporosis, regular, moderate exercise is important. In addition to weight-bearing exercises, activities that emphasize balance may be helpful, because fractures often result from falls.

Combine the right exercise with a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, a healthy lifestyle, and your doctor's guidance, and you'll be well on your way to good bone health.

reviewed 7/8/2016

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