Calcium isn’t the only factor when it comes to strong bones. Just like maintaining a certain level of fitness, both nutrition and exercise are needed to support long-term bone health—and prevent osteoporosis later in life. Put down that glass of milk (it’s not doing you any favors) and pick up a set of dumbbells instead. Thirty to sixty minutes of weight-bearing and resistance exercise will support your bones far better than cows’ milk—even the chocolate variety. Incorporate this effective, do-anywhere-workout into your daily routine to support your bone health and prevent brittle bones later down the road.
National osteoporosis organizations around the world have agreed that weight-bearing and resistance exercises increase bone density and help prevent the onset of brittle bone disease. “Weight-bearing” does not necessitate weights—it simply means supporting one’s own weight. For example, running, walking, yoga, dancing, tennis, and rock climbing are all considered weight-bearing. Activities such as swimming, cycling, and rowing are not. Resistance exercise involves working against a force. This helps strengthen muscles, which consequently reduces the risks of falls and fractures. Resistance training includes working with free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, and even your own bodyweight. The exercises below focus on weight-bearing, bodyweight resistance exercises. Of course, if you want to pick up dumbbells to increase the intensity, we won’t stop you.
Complete four rounds of this circuit for a full bone-strengthening workout.
Squat and Raise – 20 reps
Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Sit back like you’re sitting in a chair so that your knees reach a 90-degree angle (no need to go lower). Keep your weight in your heels and make sure you can see your toes when you look down (if not, shift your weight back further). Squeeze your glutes together and stand up, then raise your heels and reach upwards. Return heels to the floor. That’s one rep.
Where you’ll feel it: Glutes, calves, quads.
Tricep Push-Ups – 10 reps
Begin in a push-up position with your hands shoulder-width apart, fingers facing forward. Keeping your body in a straight line, bend your elbows straight back toward your ribs and lower until you’re two inches from the ground. Straighten your elbows to starting position. That’s one rep. Option to go to your knees instead of your toes.
Where you’ll feel it: triceps, shoulders, abs.
Reverse Lunges – 10 reps
Stand with your feet together. Step behind you and bend both knees in a 90-degree angle (your back knee should be hovering two inches above the floor). Be sure to keep your weight in your front heel so that your front knee does not go past your toes. Pushing off the heel of your front foot, return to standing position. Repeat the movement with your other leg. That’s one rep.
Where you’ll feel it: glutes, quads, balance.
Up-Up-Down-Downs – 10 reps
Begin in a push-up position. Keeping your core and glutes tight and your body in a straight plank position, lower one forearm to the floor, followed by the other so that you’re in a forearm plank position. Immediately return to the push-up position, reversing the movement. That’s one rep. Try to keep your hips from wiggling side to side as much as possible.
Where you’ll feel it: shoulders, abs.
Single-Leg RDL – 10 reps per leg
Stand with your feet together, then lift one foot off the floor. Keeping your abs tight and your back straight, slowly move your leg straight behind you, forcing your top half to reach down to the floor (like a see-saw). Go as far down as you can while maintaining a straight back. Slowly return to standing position. That’s one rep. Complete 10 reps then switch legs.
Where you’ll feel it: hamstrings, balance.
Flyers – 20 reps
Begin laying on the floor, stomach down, arms stretched out straight in front of you (elbows near your ears). Raise your chest and arms off the floor. Hold this raised position while you move your outstretched arms out to your sides then to your back (fingers pointed toward your toes) in a continuous semi-circle movement—squeezing your shoulder blades together. Reverse the movement to return your arms to the starting position (keeping your chest raised the entire time). That’s one rep.
Where you’ll feel it: shoulders, back.
Begin in a forearm side plank. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch sides, and hold for 30 seconds. Move to a standard forearm plank and hold for 30 seconds.
Where you’ll feel it: abs, shoulders.
Photo credit: Caroline Caliri