Everybody knows that exercise is great for you, building muscles, making you feel good, all that great stuff… but what about bones? How does exercise affect the ol’ skeletal system?
The answer is…
Chapter One: Who Cares?
Why Bone Health Matters
Let me begin by saying, as you age your bone health will become more important to you. Hello there, if you’re already in your 40s+. Unfortunately, poor bone health is a common problem.
And though you may be thinking,
“I love yoghurt. I’m getting plenty of calcium 😌”.
Sorry to burst your passionfruit flavoured bubble... but it’s not quite that simple.
Here’s a quick statistic for you,
A mix of age-related changes, inactivity, and lack of nutrients contribute to a gradual decrease in bone mass at an average rate of 1% per year, after the age of 40. (Harvard Health, 2020)
Now sure, if you’re an avid yoghurt consumer, you might get that number down,
but by age 60 your bones would still likely be anywhere from 15 - 20% weaker.
Over 900,000 Australians are reported to have Osteoporosis. (AIHW, 2020) This is an (often) age-related condition in which bones become weak to the point that breakage can occur from even light bumps.
Now, what’s important about this statistic is that Osteoporosis is significantly more common in women, about 20% more common in fact.
If you are interested in strengthening your bones, read on...
Chapter Two: Stressed Out
How Exercise DOES Improve Bone density
So, we’ve acknowledged that we want to keep our bones the way we got them,
But how do we do that?
Well, obviously we need yoghur- exercise. Plenty of exercise.
This is because the stress that weight-bearing exercises places on bones increases density, and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
And while “stressing” your bones may sound harmful, it’s just a term, nothing to be concerned about.
Bone, technically being live tissue (like muscle), changes over time and adapts in response to the force regularly placed on it, becoming denser. Studies have shown that to elicit a response and strengthen the bone, it must come under high mechanical strain.
But what constitutes “high mechanical strain”?.
Chapter Three: Let’s Get Physical
Exercises That Do, and Exercises That Don’t
Unfortunately, not all exercises are made equal.
Some exercises make great improvements to bone density, whereas others... not so much.
So what makes a great, bone-building exercise, and what doesn’t?
Some examples of resistance exercises include:
- Weight lifting
Or in our case some great resistance training classes would include:
- Reformer Pilates
- Mat Pilates
All of these class styles and exercises apply stress to bones, and force you to work against gravity. Like we noted earlier, this may sound bad, but it’s really the key to strong bones.
Examples of exercises that are great for muscles and cardiovascular system, but not necessarily bone health are:
These workouts are amazing for a lot of reasons, but they don’t apply that same pressure that strong resistance training does, onto bones.
Taking a look specifically at Pilates, there are multiple reasons why it’s great for bone health (specifically those already suffering with osteoporosis).
- Resistance of workout places stress on bones, improving bone mass density
- Strengthens muscles, supporting bones
- Improves balance, preventing possible injury
- Improves posture, keeping bones correctly aligned (Everyday Health, 2018)
And with that…
You’ve got all the basic info you need to take care of your spooky scary skeleton.
Now all that’s left is to put it into action.
If you’d like to start taking care of your bones, feel free to join us in-studio (or you can join us from home with live classes and on-demand workouts)