Weight-bearing Exercise

In weight-bearing exercise, the body remains upright and works against gravity, which strengthens the bones and helps guard against osteoporosis, or thinning of the bones.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation defines two basic categories of weight-bearing exercise. High-impact activities include hiking, jogging, running, tennis, jumping rope, dancing, and performing high-impact aerobic routines.

Some people may be better served by low-impact aerobic exercises such as fast walking outdoors or on a treadmill, using an elliptical training or a stepmill machine, or performing low-impact aerobic routines.

For people with osteoporosis, other types of exercise may also be useful. Strength-training or resistance exercises such as lifting weights, using weight machines, or using elastic resistance bands may help maintain bone density. Balance exercises such as tai chi can reduce the risk of falling and breaking bones. Yoga and Pilates can help build core strength and improve balance and flexibility, although some poses such as forward folds may be risky for individuals with weak bones.

Always check with your health-care provider before starting an exercise regimen, especially if you have such health conditions as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease. If you’re at high risk for bone fractures, you should consult your physical therapist to plan a safe exercise program.


This column is written by Robert S. Dinsmoor, a medical writer and editor based in Massachusetts.

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