Osteoporosis is a growing problem in the American population with very serious consequences. Osteoporosis is the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time due to loss of calcium and phosphate, which make the bones strong. Osteopenia is the loss of bone density, but not severe enough to be classified as osteoporosis. In the United States today, 10 million individuals already have osteoporosis and 34 million more have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for this disease. One out of every 2 women and 1 in 4 men over 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in his or her lifetime. (1)
One of the best methods to increase bone health and mass is performing exercise. Certain types of exercise are more effective at building bone than others, most notably weight bearing exercise. Weight bearing does not mean lifting weights, but rather performing exercises in standing positions where your bones have to carry your body weight. Bones will get stronger when they are subjected to increased stress. Good bone building exercises include: walking, jogging, dancing, stair climbing, and tai chi. These exercises should be performed for 20 minutes, 3 days a week for best results. Poor bone building exercises include: swimming, biking, spinning, and light stretching.
Of course, if you have osteoporosis or bone loss, check with your physician before beginning any exercise program. Most people are able to exercise very safely and increase their bone mass effectively through exercise.