Pressure your bones into growing stronger

February 9, 2021

Guest blog: Elizabeth Raulston, MS, CPT, Siskin Health & Fitness Center
Wellness Expertise

Osteoporosis is a condition that causes disruptions in new bone formation by gradually thinning and weakening the bone mineral density.

Although there is no cure for osteoporosis, bones can be strengthened through mechanical stressors such as weight-bearing and muscle strengthening. Weight-bearing exercises put just enough exerting gravitational forces (pressure) on the bones to stimulate the production of new osteocytes needed to replace old ones and absorb calcium to strengthen bones.

Who’s at risk?

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, roughly nine million Americans have osteoporosis, and an estimated 48 million have low bone density. Nearly 60 percent of adults age 50 and older are at risk. Women are more susceptible to osteoporosis because their bones tend to be lighter and less dense. Women’s bodies experience hormonal changes pre- and post-menopause. Menopause accelerates the loss of bone mass within the first five to seven years. Researchers believe this is due to a sharp decline in the body’s estrogen production, which is said to help keep calcium in the bones. Women who are thin and have small frames are at high risk, as are those who smoke and live sedentary lifestyles. White and Asian women are more frequently affected than African-American and Hispanic women. However, many other contributing factors can contribute to the onset of osteoporosis, also referred to as Osteopenia, such as:

  • Malnutrition
  • Low calcium diet
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Chronic inflammation due to rheumatoid arthritis
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Low testosterone levels in men
  • Inherited genetic disorder
What you can do

Although some osteoporosis contributing factors are out of our control, there are various ways to prevent and or slow down osteoporosis progression through simple lifestyle changes. The human body is an example of a kinetic chain of systems that link rigid bodies to which forces are applied to. In other words, the body is made to move and be upright. Our bones need to move through weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises daily to maintain daily living activities.

Weight-bearing practices can be high-impact or low-impact. Higher impact exercises will increase your heart rate and create more impact and pressure on the bones. Some examples of high-impact weight bearing exercises are

  • jogging
  • stair climbing
  • brisk walking
  • jump roping

Many of these examples are considered open-chain kinetic movement. In other words, our legs or distal end of the body is free to move within space. One foot or both feet will be leaving the ground at some point during the movement.  Open kinetic chain exercises can be used to improve the strength and function of an isolated muscle or muscle group.

Low-impact weight-bearing exercises can also help keep bones healthy and are safe alternatives if you cannot do high-impact activities. Some examples of low impact-weight bearing exercises are

  • low impact aerobics
  • walking
  • elliptical training.

Low impact-weight bearing exercises tend to keep the heart rate down and are easier on the bones and joints. All these exercises require muscle strength. Muscle-strengthening exercises include activities where you move your body, a weight, or some other resistance against gravity.

In order to maintain activities of daily living, we need to be able to lift our body weight against gravity and perform functional movements such as standing and rising up on our toes to initiate a walking pattern. Strong bones can be built through lifestyle changes, so pressure your bones into growing stronger and get moving.