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Bob Greene's Favorite Bone-Building Exercises
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Q: I've started to worry about old-lady bones. What can I do to keep mine strong?
You know Bob Greene loves this question, right? It not only shows that you're proactive (bone density, like height, fertility, and, Jane Fonda reassures us, self-consciousness, decreases with age), but it also gives him a chance to praise the virtues of something he's been passionate about for over 30 years: vigorous exercise. "When you're working out hard the body doesn't say, 'This person is already 50; time to throw in the towel,'" says Bob. "It says, 'Whoa! This is still an active individual whose muscles and bones aren't meeting the challenges that are being imposed on it. Let me make those physiological changes.'" But when it comes to bone-building, not all exercises are created equal. The moves must force you to work different parts of your body against gravity, and muscle pulling on bone will trigger specialized cells to begin building more bone. Bob's favorites include jogging for at least 30 minutes ("Amazing for building more bone in the legs," he says), a weight routine with overhead presses, squats and lunges (you can do these strength-training moves at home) and hiking uphill with a pack ("This strengthens the muscles around the spine," he says). Are none of these working for you? Perhaps you're injured, or you don't live near the mountains, or you're just looking for something you haven't heard before. Well, Bob's got more ideas:
For those who can't do high-impact exercise: While swimming and cycling will keep your body in shape, they're not weight-bearing exercises, so they won't do much for your bones. Bob's advice is to hop on the elliptical machine, which helps you avoid impact while still helping to improve bone mass.
For urbanites and flatlanders: You might feel silly wearing a backpack in your local park, but Bob says you'll blend in with a 10-20 pound weighted vest, and it provides the same kind of resistance as a pack while walking.
For time-crunched new parents: Pushing a stroller is like a hybrid of jogging and weight training, says Bob. The child provides bone-building resistance (and in this situation, unlike bath time or dinner time, you welcome that resistance).
For indoorsy types: Regularly practicing yoga can build bones in the hips, spine and wrists, which are areas most vulnerable to fracture (especially in women). It also improves balance and flexibility, says Bob, which are helpful in avoiding falls and therefore, fractures. Iyengar yoga is a good choice for newbie yogis because it involves props like belts and blocks to help you get into the correct position.
Are you at risk for osteoporosis?
The 8 strength-training moves Bob recommends
As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.