Best Exercises for Strong Bones

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Build Stronger Bones With the Right Exercises

Couple running up stairs
Leonardo Patrizi/Getty Images

There are plenty of good reasons to lift weights as part of a regular workout routine. Increasing muscle mass and tone makes nearly every physical activity easier to do, it helps avoid unwanted fat gain, it improves athletic performance and it can dramatically improve self-confidence and self-esteem. But one of the best reasons for women to add more weight-bearing exercise to their workouts is to build stronger bones, which may prevent the onset of osteoporosis in older age.

Any time you strengthen your muscles, you strengthen the bones, but some exercises are more effective at the job. Weight-bearing exercises, such as running, jumping, hopping and lifting weights, are the most effective type of exercise for strengthening the bones.

It's never too late to increase bone density by adding strength training exercises. Studies show that even people in their 60's and beyond, can significantly increase the density of their bones when they perform regular weight lifting exercises.

So just what are the best exercises for building bone density? Read on.

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Lift Weights to Build Greater Bone Density

Barbell squat exercise
Barbell squat exercise. Getty Images

One of the best ways to build stronger bones is to do regular weight lifting exercises such as  squats, lunges, and other full-body weight training exercises. This sort of exercise has been shown to help build bone density quickly in people of all ages. The goal of strength training is to safely lift a heavy enough weight so that you are taxing the muscles, but not so much that you have poor form or sloppy technique. Ideally, lift as much weight as you can safely control for 6-10 repetitions, rest and repeat a total of three times. 

If you are new to weight lifting, get guidance from a coach or trainer to avoid unsafe lifting technique and reduce your risk of injury. Start with lighter weights that you can easily control, and over time, build up to heavier weights.

There are many different exercises you can add to a routine designed to improve bone strength, but five of the best include:

  1. Squats
  2. Deadlifts
  3. Weighted Walking Lunges
  4. Push Ups
  5. Dumbbell Rows

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Jump Your Way to Stronger Bones

Jumping builds bone density
Jumping builds bone density.

Any exercise that involves hops, jumps, and bounding movements can also increase bone density. This type of high-intensity impact exercise creates a significant force on the muscle, joints, and bones, which is actually good for bone building, but it can also lead to injuries if you haven't been engaging in high-impact exercise, so caution is advised for those just getting started.

If you aren't convinced that jumping can build bones, in 2015, researchers showed that middle-aged women who did a series of hopping exercises twice a day for four months significantly increased the bone density in their hips. This is great news because hip fractures in older women can be debilitating.

The best jumping exercises for better bones include:

  1. Rope Jumping
  2. Jump Training
  3. Plyometrics

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Moderate-impact Exercise Strengthens Bones

Running for better bones
Running for better bones. Photo (c) Tyler Stableford / Getty Images

Moderate-impact exercises such as running, hiking, stair climbing, and yoga are other good ways to give your bones a workout.  While moderate impact exercise doesn't give you the same bang for the buck as the more forceful exercises (weight lifting and jumping), they do put enough stress on the muscles and bones to improve the density of the bones, particularly in the lower body, hips and lower spine.

And although it's not considered an exercise specifically for building bones, balance training is also recommended for anyone who wants to improve muscle strength, coordination, and stability which can go a long way to decrease the likelihood of falls or fractures, particularly in older adults when bones are often slower to heal.

The best moderate-impact exercises for building bone density include:

  1. Running or Jogging
  2. Stair climbing
  3. Yoga or Pilates
  4. Hiking
  5. Rowing
  6. Court or Racquet Sports
  7. Balance Training

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