Movement Strengthens Your Bones
This particular benefit of movement is most closely tied to your muscles, if you can excuse the pun.
At birth humans have 270 bones, but many of these fuse together as a child becomes an adult, leaving adults with 206 bones. Good trivia you can share at the next party!
But bones do not just miraculously stay in place like a Halloween skeleton. Bones themselves are alive, and a complex structure of ligaments, tendons, and muscles are responsible for holding them together.
How Exercise is Important for Bone Strength
When you exercise and engage your muscles, the tendons that “tie” those muscles to your bones are stretched and pull on your bones. This pulling causes a response from your body to fortify the bone, so that it will hold and not break. A fortified bone is a stronger bone, decreasing the likelihood that a random fall or twist will cause a break. Movement Matters!When you exercise, tendons pull on your bones and this strengthens both! #MovementMatters Click To Tweet
Who Needs to Focus on Building Bone Strength?
Really, everyone needs to keep moving and building or maintaining their bone strength. The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, wrote:
“Bone-strengthening activities are especially important for children and teens because the greatest gains in bone mass occur just before and during puberty.”
While building a strong foundation is certainly very important, having strong and flexible bones is important for everyone! Parents need to stay healthy so they can care for their kids, and aging adults begin to have additional challenges with decreasing calcium absorption and other nutritional challenges.
What are the Best Forms of Exercise for Building Bone Strength?
Weight-bearing exercise is anything that has your feet (or hands!) on the ground, and moving:
- Lifting weights
- Climbing Stairs
- Playing Sports*
*Two notable exceptions are swimming and biking, as these are not technically weight bearing. However, they still strongly engage your muscles and tendons, and do impact the strength of your bone health as well.Act like a 3 year-old in how you move your body and your body will reward you for it! Click To Tweet
Weight lifting, the use of weights to actively encourage your muscles to be lean and strong, is recommended for most adults. It is generally recommended that one begins with bodyweight movements such as squats, lunges, planks, and pushups; then move on to using actual weight as you get stronger. This taxing of the tendons, ligaments, and muscles is key to good bone strength.
The Mayo Clinic suggests that even children may benefit from strength training, but as with adults, proper technique and not moving up in weight too quickly is important. If they can’t do a push up correctly, don’t worry about the bench press!
Keep moving! Use your Fitbit, or other movement monitor, and know that every step you take is a step toward strengthening your bones as well. Even better, add in some dancing, jumping, lifting weights, or your favorite sport, and you can possibly enjoy strong flexible bones your entire life.
Related Personal Story
When I had my ACL replaced in 2015, it was fascinating to hear how they would do it (Skip this paragraph if you are squeamish!). The doctor scraped some of my hamstring tendon, created two holes in my two leg bones where the ACL had previously been attached, placed the new tendon in those holes and screwed them in tight with plastic screws so that they would merge with the bone and develop a blood supply again. The bone grew back around the screw and connected with the new tendon. The recovery was slow, but it worked!
My knee today feels fabulous and I am able to do all the things (weights, martial arts, etc.) that I was prevented from doing well with a missing ACL. Exercise, first in the form of physical therapy, was an important key to the healing, though I know the use of magnetic therapy helped as well by reducing inflammation. Furthermore, less than a year after surgery my scar is almost invisible.