According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), weight bearing exercises are activities that make you move against gravity while staying upright. The NOF recommends 2 ½ hours a week, or more, of this type of exercise to help build strong bones and slow bone loss.
If you have physical limitations, and can't do high-impact exercises, then low-impact is a safe alternative. Below is a list of four low-impact weight-bearing exercises designed to strengthen your skeleton from the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
- Elliptical training machines
- Low-impact aerobics
- Stair-step machines
- Walking on a treadmill or outside
Before you start any exercise check with your doctor, or if you are at high-risk for fracture you should get a referral to a qualified physical therapist educated in bone loss. The physical therapist will give you individualized testing on gait, balance and posture to access your physical strength and possible limitations. To find a physical therapist (PT), with this type of education, you can contact the American Physical Therapy Association at www.apta.org . Once you've seen a physical therapist you'll know if the above exercises are safe for you to do. In most cases, these can be done for weight-bearing exercise unless you have some injury that precludes one or more of the above. In this case, your PT will give you an alternate exercise to do in place of those you may not be able to do.
Elliptical trainers are stationary exercise equipment that mimic stair-climbing, walking and running. These exercise machines can be found in gyms and physical therapy offices.
Low-impact aerobics involve the above exercises where you achieve 60-85% of maximum heart rate during the workout.
Walking on a treadmill is good when the weather is bad, or during the winter months to give you a good low-impact exercise out of the elements. Take your walk outside when the weather is nice, and invite a friend to join you. Having a friend along will help to keep you motivated and on schedule. If you feel like skipping a day your friend can give you the right encouragement so you'll follow through with the walking you need to do to achieve good bone and muscle strength.
Exercise for Strong Bone, National Osteoporosis Foundation. Retrieved on March 10, 2014 http://nof.org/articles/238