Daily exercise not only helps safeguard our hearts, but also can help strengthen our bones against injury. In fact, the strength of our bones is directly related to living a life without injury. And while the best time for bone growth may be in early adolescence, it is never too late to focus on strengthening activities.
“There have been studies of nursing home residents that have gone through regimented and rigorous strengthening programs and achieved higher levels of bone density, even at advanced ages,” says Dr. Deborah Rohm Young, chair of the American Heart Association’s Physical Activity Subcommittee.
The key, says Rohm Young, is to focus on exercises that use gravity, such as brisk running, walking, playing tennis, gardening and indoor housework. The American Heart Association recommends participating in aerobic activity such as swimming, muscle strengthening such as push-ups and bone strengthening activities, such as brisk walking or weight lifting exercises. The total should add up to at least 150 minutes each week for adults or at least 30 minutes on five days of the week.
Arm weight lifting
Weight lifting is a great exercise for increasing bone density, says Rohm Young. For elderly women, she recommends starting by lifting a can of soup.
“Pick up a can of peaches or soup and try doing 10 bicep curls,” she suggests. “If that is easy, do it five more times. Don’t stop until you feel some muscle fatigue.”
If you don’t have soup cans at home, try going to your local sports store and purchasing a few one- or two-pound weights.
Leg weight lifting
How can you strengthen the bones in your legs? Rohm Young recommends trying ankle weights, which you can also purchase at sports stores. These weights are usually encased in fabric and can comfortably fit around your ankles.
“Put your ankle weights on and sit in a stationary chair, one that doesn’t have wheels,” Rohm Young instructs. “Sit up straight with your legs bent, your feet comfortably touching the ground. Then bend at the knee and bring one foot out straight while the other foot is still down. Alternate legs for several reps until you feel a little tired.”
Note: Don’t walk around while wearing ankle weights because it can strain your muscles. Only use them when doing targeted exercises or with your doctor’s approval.
Learn more heart-healthy exercises on Go Red.