We hear all the time that exercise builds bone. But how exactly does it do that? Every time you move, little electromagnetic microcurrents are generated at the cellular level. These electric charges that form as a result of applied mechanical stress are called “the piezoelectric effect.” This little piezoelectric pulse directs osteoclast cells to break down old bone and guides the bone-building osteoblast cells to create new bone matrix.
When you exercise, your muscles pull on your bones, which applies mechanical stress and induces the piezoelectric effect. Over time, as exercise and activity are repeated, the osteoblasts slowly add minerals like calcium, magnesium and phosphorous to existing bone, reinforcing the bone’s architecture, and building healthy bone. At any age, weight bearing, cardio- and coordination-enhancing exercises result in bone and muscle renewal and rebuilding. Even an hour a day of walking or movement practices may be sufficient for activating renewal of healthy bones.
On the flip side, if you are sedentary and don’t exercise your muscles, they can shrink (atrophy) and won’t apply as much resistance to your bones. Over time the lack of use can cause osteopenia (weak bones), which is a precursor to osteoporosis.
Along with getting adequate restorative sleep, consuming a healthy diet that follows the twelve Nature’s pHarmacy™ principles (parts 1 and 2), and including elements of an alkaline lifestyle, be sure to include exercise and movement into your daily routine.
Here are a few exercises to try to improve bone health:
- Walking. You may want to begin slowly and build up. One approach is to walk for five minutes on the first day and add a minute daily. If you do that, in 10 days you will be walking 15 minutes, and in a month, more than a half-hour. By the end of the second month, if you wish, you could be walking for an hour a day.
- Climbing Stairs. Do you have stairs in your home? If so, you have some built-in bone-building equipment! Climbing stairs improves cardiovascular health but also strengthens muscles and bones. Incorporate stair-climbing into your exercise routine by climbing at least eight flights of stairs each day. You can climb up, go back down, and repeat 8-10 times.
- Jogging. Jogging increases weight/stress on bones, and can help build new bone. However, if you have already been diagnosed with low bone density, you’ll want to avoid high-impact activities.
- Jumping Jacks. Remember this exercise from grade school? This is an easy total-body workout that can be done in a small space. Start with 10 daily, and you can work up to as many as 25.
- Pickleball. The latest sporting craze to take over the US, pickleball combines aspects of tennis, badminton, and ping pong into a family-friendly game. Regular participation can increase agility, coordination, muscle strength, cardiorespiratory fitness and bone health.
- Hatha Yoga. Hatha yoga can be understood as a series of postures and positions involving mindfulness and stretching that was developed in India millennia ago. These postures stretch and strengthen muscles and ligaments, joints and tendons, organs and systems. Find a class near you, or practice along with one of the many YouTube videos for beginners.
As always, check with your doctor or healthcare practitioner to see what exercise is best for you. As the adage says, “use it or lose it.” This can also be paraphrased to “use bone or lose bone.” So whatever your exercise of choice, get moving to keep your bones healthy and strong.