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How to Build Strong Bones



Clients often come into the Limber Arts Studio with concerns about bone health.  Often their doctor has suggested they do more weight-bearing exercise.  Often there is a concern of osteopenia or osteoporosis, but even without these specific diagnoses, it’s important to build strong bones as we age. The importance of strong bones has benefits ranging from reducing the risk of fractures to improving balance and posture.


Thanks for joining me.


So let’s dive into some important considerations when it comes to building strong bones. First off we will discuss the essential relationship between strong bones and strong muscles along with exercise considerations that have been proven to support bone density. Next, we will get into the details of types of exercise programs and look more closely at why yoga and pilates is not enough when it comes to building strong bones. Finally, we will discuss lifestyle and nutrition factors that contribute to building and maintaining strong bones. As always, my intention is to empower you with the information and inspiration you need to take a proactive step towards aging like a badass and living an adventurous life. 





Bones, Muscles, and Beyond

When it comes to bone health, it's vital to understand the intricate connection between bones and muscles. Strong muscles provide support and protection for bones, helping to prevent injuries and maintain overall stability. Incorporating weight-bearing exercises such as strength training and resistance workouts can significantly enhance bone density and strength. By focusing on both bones and muscles, you'll create a solid foundation for optimal bone health.


Muscles and bones work together in harmony to navigate gravity. All movement on the planet, whether you're looking at a cat jumping up onto the fence, or you're trying to get up out of a low chair, can be described as either falling down into gravity or pushing gravity away.  It’s a give and take, it’s a push-pull, and this is how all movement works.  And it is specifically this movement, at each and every joint in the body, that builds bone and muscle mass. This is also, essentially the definition of weight-bearing exercise.


So, when it comes to looking at exercise guidelines for strong bones, in my humble opinion, the goal is to build up to a place where more of your bones and joints are moving effectively and efficiently.  Because it is the movement at each and every joint that will keep your whole skeleton strong. Another way to understand weight-bearing exercise is to ask yourself, is it an upright position where my feet are on the ground and my bones and joints are bearing the weight of my body from head to toe?


Yoga and Pilates is NOT Enough

While yoga and Pilates offer numerous benefits for flexibility, stress relief, and low impact fitness, they may not be sufficient for building strong bones. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, hiking, dancing, or lifting weights, are essential for stimulating bone growth and density. These activities put stress on your bones, prompting them to become stronger and more resilient over time. Of course, the particular type of yoga or pilates that you’re practicing makes a big difference as well, but in general these methodologies have a lot of exercises where you are either holding still, or laying or sitting on the floor. 


I am a huge advocate for progressive strength training.  Yoga and Pilates both are excellent forms of progressive strength training, especially for folks who feel like they have two left feet, are adverse to other types of workouts, or who have other factors that require a more gentle and low impact movement option. 


This is precisely why I am certified as a personal trainer, in addition to pilates and yoga.  You see, I started my career teaching yoga and pilates.  It was only after I hit the limitations of what these modalities could offer my health, and the health of my clients that I went searching for more answers. 


I’ve seen clients who spent decades (yes decades) thinking they had frail bones and needed to avoid harder workouts, who struggled with chronic back pain for decades, I’ve seen many clients like this relearn how to trust their body to do hard things, like squat and lunge and hold a heavy weight. And I’ve seen their pain levels go down, not to mention the improvements to coordination, agility, and general freedom in the quality of their movements.  


This is one of the reasons why I created the Small Group Pilates Class Series.  This is a circuit style class that is actually a mix of pilates and weight lifting. 5 circuits are designed specifically to challenge your body to build muscle and bear weight, while incorporating progressive training that is still supportive enough for folks who have concerns about joint health, balance, or generally need to make sure they are performing the movements correctly. To find out more please click here for information and upcoming dates.


Walking and hiking are also great, but they are more what I would consider endurance activities.  They will not place as much force and challenge onto your bones as weight training will.  For this reason, I think lifting weights is very important for healthy aging and building strong bones. 


Lifestyle and Nutrition Factors

Your lifestyle and dietary choices play a significant role in building and maintaining strong bones. I tend to think of healthy fats as important for joint health, protein for strong muscles, and calcium for strong bones. Now, of course when we look at the holistic system these things all blend together.  If you have joint pain it’s going to be hard to build strong bones, and so you may need to focus more on nutrition and supplements that support joint health, as a pathway towards strong bones.  So, it is very individual.  Adequate calcium intake is important, but it's equally important to ensure proper absorption through vitamin D-rich foods or supplements. Magnesium, vitamin K, and phosphorus also contribute to bone health. By adopting a balanced and active lifestyle, along with a nutritious diet rich in vitamins and minerals, you'll create an environment conducive to strong and resilient bones.


Key Takeaways and Action Items.

Taking this all in can be overwhelming, or maybe interesting, but hard to know what to do with all this information.  My goal is always to provide information that is useful, applicable, and practical. 


One of my coaches uses the phrase, “small sweet step” which I love.  Looking for just the first step, just one small thing that you can do to simply start making a small shift. What is that for you?  Which area needs the most attention? How could you take a small tiny step towards improving in that area? 

 

Building strong bones is a holistic endeavor that encompasses exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle choices. By understanding the interplay between bones and muscles, incorporating diverse workouts, and prioritizing essential nutrients, you can enhance your bone health and overall well-being. Remember, it's never too late to start investing in your health! 



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