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Strong Bones for Life

Published: August 25, 2010

Here are more bone building tips and workouts from physical therapist Patrice Winter to accompany those mentioned in the Sep/Oct 2010 Post article “Strong Bones for Life.”

Bone may look dry and dormant, but they are actually living tissue that can get stronger with the right kind of exercise. Research now shows that new bone cells develop in areas where muscles tug at bones and when body weight impacts the ground with more than usual force.

“The body is ever changing,” explains physical therapist Patrice Winter, M.S. “Exercise that ‘loads’ or puts extra pressure on bones causes new bone cells to grow—not as efficiently as when we were young, but enough to make a significant difference.”

Depending on your health and fitness level (and with your doctor’s permission), consider these exercises to help bones stay strong as you move through life.

Light Weights: To strengthen wrist bones, hold onto soup cans and move the joint in all directions. Instead of using soup cans, look around your home for bottles of dish or hand soap that fit easily in your hand. When empty, fill them with sand, or small pebbles from the yard.

Stair Climbing: If your balance is good, climbing stairs is a great way to build bones in the hips, legs, and feet. Going up and down stairs involves standing on one foot in order to move the other one, and will further improve balance and prevent potentially devastating falls.

Take 10, Three Times Daily: Everyone can do three 10-minute sets of exercises that are matched to their capabilities. Beginners can sit in a chair and kick their feet out, or use the soup cans to do arm (biceps) curls. When standing, lift the cans in front of the body or above the head. March in place.

Work up to 30 minutes, Five Days a Week: Most people can do Tai chi. Yoga practice ranges from gentle movements performed sitting in a chair to Hot Yoga that works every body system. Use common sense, and always adapt Tai chi and yoga positions to what is comfortable for you. Brisk walking, golfing, and dancing all provide full range of motion. Hiking puts more pressure on the body than walking on a paved surface, and using a walking stick loads bones of the upper body as well.

Know Your Start Zone: Remember, exercises to tone the bones must put more pressure on skeleton than do your everyday activities. But don’t do too much, too soon. Honor your body, and consider consulting a medically trained physical therapist to design a fitness plan that is safe and effective for you. For a nine-question quiz to assess your current level of motion, and to find a physical therapist near you, visit www.moveforwardpt.com.

Physical therapist Patrice Winter, M.S., is affiliated with the American Physical Therapy Association, the American Academy of Manipulative Physical Therapists, and George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

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