Strong Bones for Life: Fight Off Osteoporosis

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Choose an Exercise Program with Your Bones in Mind

You need two types of exercise -- weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening.

Weight-bearing exercise means that muscles and bones work against gravity. A walking program is an excellent choice -- if it's intense. "Leisurely walking doesn't challenge the skeleton enough to maintain bone mass," says Scott Going, PhD, an exercise physiologist at the University of Arizona. To ramp up walks, do bursts of fast walking up hills, go up and down stairs, or wear a weighted vest. Dancing, hiking, running, tennis, and jumping rope are also good, and rowing is excellent for increasing bone mass in the spine. Get 30 or more minutes on most days.

Resistance and strengthening exercises build power and prevent falls by working the core muscles, which help you maintain balance. Weight lifting with free weights or machines, push-ups or pull-ups, and resistance bands all qualify. Do two or three days a week for at least 20 minutes. In one study, postmenopausal women raised their bone density by one to two percent with 20 to 25 minutes of resistance training -- plus 7 to 10 minutes of weight-bearing exercise -- three times a week.

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