Weightlessness experienced by astronauts and immobilization imposed by long-term bed rest cause bone loss. Each time we step, jump, run or balance on part of our body, the impact causes compressive force on the bone, which encourages bone building. That’s why it’s important to participate in regular weight-bearing exercise that is appropriate for your fitness level and current bone health. For example: very fast walking, uphill walking, stair-stepping, jump rope or jumping activities, high-impact aerobics, jogging, certain types of dancing, soccer, tennis, squash and basketball can be good exercise choices for bone-building. High impact forces and a variety of movement patterns cause a stronger bone response. However, your strength, heart health and bone integrity must be adequate for safe exercise.
Your doctor or physical therapist can tell you what’s safe and effective for you. Exercise is an important link in the overall strategy for improving the health of your bones. The optimal exercise regimen for preventing osteoporosis has yet to be established, but these guidelines are based on our current state of knowledge. We do know that exercise works best when you have adequate levels of estrogen, calcium intake and vitamin D. Much of our day is spent sitting or bending. This can tighten some muscles and put a lot of stress on the spine. As part of an overall program of stretching, develop good flexibility in your spine, hamstrings (back thigh), hip flexors (front thigh) and pectoral (chest) muscles. Avoid forward bending exercises which can put stress on the bones and discs of the spine. Stretch the muscles to a point of tension, not pain, and hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds at least 3 -5 times daily or as directed by your physical therapist. Strength training is probably one of the most important things you can do to build or maintain strong bones.
When muscles are challenged, they pull on their bony attachments stimulating bone formation. If you want to increase bone mass in a particular bone, the exercise must recruit muscles that attach to that bone. It appears that a certain strength training intensity stimulates bone growth. To increase bone density in the spine, utilize either free weights or exercise machines. Have an exercise professional design a well-balanced strength program for you involving major muscle groups, particularly in the hips, wrists and spine.
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