The Six BEST Exercises to Improve Bone Density
When bone loss occurs, the risk for fracture increases. Many of my clients come see me to learn how to implement strength training as a method to increase bone density. Improvements to bone density take longer to measure than increases in muscle strength and size, but the benefits are worth the wait.
Over time, the bones react to weight-bearing exercises by becoming stronger and thicker. The BEST Study, conducted by the University of Arizona, determined that the following strength exercises produced the biggest improvements in bone density:
1. Leg Press
2. Smith (or loaded) Squat
3. Lat Pulldown
4. Seated Row
5. One-Arm Military Press
6. Low Back Extension
While some individuals have medical or muscoloskeletal issues that limit or prevent loading the spine, these exercises can be modified so that nearly anyone can perform them safely. If you have any of these concerns, I recommend reaching out to a personal trainer in your area. Check out that person's credentials to make sure they have the necessary experience and education.
In addition to strength training, higher impact cardio activities such as running and jumping stimulate bone growth because of the jarring action to the spine. Caution should be used in choosing the appropriate activity, however. If it's not an activity you would normally choose, start with a lower-impact activity, such as walking (level 1), walking uphill (level 2), or walking uphill while wearing a weighted vest (level 3). Before you try jumping, try hopping on one foot or performing heel drops. (See below)
Performing heel drops:
1. Stand up with good posture, knees relaxed, feet in a narrow stance.
2. Pay extra attention to keeping the abdominals contracted to protect the low back.
3. Lift both heels up, then allow them to forcefully hit the floor at the same time.
4. Start with doing this 10 times several times a day and work toward increasing the number of reps.
Heel drops can be performed when you're waiting in line at the grocery store, at a bus stop, or anywhere you're stuck in one spot for any length of time.