Is walking: a good bone density exercise or not....
Bone density exercise research gives us mixed signals about the usefulness of walking. Some studies show that walking improves bone density; other studies show it offers little or no improvement.
How can this be? What could possibly explain the differences in the research results?
Well, maybe we need return to what we know about Osteoblast activity. (Remember your Osteoblasts are the bone cells that build new bone.)
Osteoblasts respond to increased stress on bones. It could be that for those who have not been exercising regularly, walking is good for increasing bone density. It offers increased stress on their bones. BUT for those who have been walking regularly, it may not such a good bone building exercise since they are not adding stress on their bones. To add new stress they need to add something to their walks.
How you can make walking a great bone density exercise
Anyone can turn walking into a strong bone density exercise. All it takes is a bit of imagination and a few changes in your routine.
NOTE: This page also offers suggestions for those just starting a walking program. If you are new to walking, buying a good pedometer might be helpful. A pedometer will tell you how much you have walked AND it also can act as a motivating factor - those who use pedometers tend( to walk just a bit farther each day.
Turn your walking into a better bone density exercise.
Scroll down to find more information for if you are 'new' to a walking program )
For those who have been doing this exercise for awhile there are some things you can do to make your walking a good bone density exercise by increasing the stress on your bones as you exercise.
Here are some suggestions:
First, take up 'race walking' and do this for all or part of your walk. Race walking adds extra stress on bones and so it is considered an excellent bone density exercise.
Second, another bone density exercise technique would be to add some 'modified jogging' to your walk. Instead of regular jogging strides; take 'baby steps' but use a jogging motion. This gives greater impact as your foot hits the ground. It increases the stress on your bones including your hip bone.
(Be sure to clear this with your health care provider. You do not want increase impact and create a stress fracture.
You do want to get some medical advice about adding impact to a bone density exercise if you have Osteopenia. It will be too late to ask after a fracture happens.)
After you have been walking for 15 minutes, you could begin some modified jogging. Do it for 10 steps and then go back to walking again. After awhile go back to your 'baby step jogging' again.
You will feel some pressure in your hips. You may also feel it in your ankles and knees so be careful. If you have osteoarthritis or feel pain in your knees, stop this bone density exercise and go back to your regular walking.
If there are no problems, you can add "baby step jogging" to your walk on a regular basis. Do it for about 2 weeks. Then stop doing it for 2 weeks. Why? Remember our Osteoblasts respond to additional bone stress. By taking a rest from the technique and giving your bones a rest from this particular stress, you will provide 'additional stress' when you start it again.
A third technique to increase the bone density usefulness of walking is to add some weights. There are a number of companies that sell weighted vests. Most physicians do not advise walking with ankle weights. You could cause injury.
If you are not sure you want to spend the money of weights, you can make walking weights. Go to the hardware store and buy a 10 lb. bag of sand. Divide it into 10 equal parts and fill 10 small plastic bags with sand.
Be sure there is plenty of extra room for the sand to move around in the bag. You do not want the bag to pop open from stress while you are walking. Also do be sure to tie the tops!
Now if you want to stress the bones in your spine, you can add some weight to a back pack for your daily walk. Be sure the pack is tied securely so it will not bounce. Put in 1 package ( i lb.) to start. When that feels so easy that you do not even notice at the end of your walk, add another package so you are walking with 2 lbs of weight. You can keep adding packages of sand until you are walking with 8 pounds in your back pack.
Sand is an inexpensive way to add weight to your walking as a bone density exercise and because sand conforms to the shape of your body and has no sharp edges, there is no change of bruising. Just be sure to add weight s-l-o-w-l-y. Your body needs time to adjust to each new stress.
Starting your walking program - advice for newbies
If you have been inactive for awhile and want to start a walking program AND you have clearance from your health care provider, here is an easy way to begin....and keep yourself going on this new bone density exercise program.
Many people find that they stick with a walking program if they have a companion. But not everyone has a spouse or friend who wants to walk.
Of course, I could advise that you to get a dog! A fairly large dog who needs exercise each day is a great motivator. The dog needs the walk so you will do your bone density exercise every day, rain or shine.
Also, if you are a woman, you will feel very safe walking with your dog. No one will bother you. In fact, you may notice that if you walk along country roads, joggers and others cross to the other side before they reach you.
But having a dog is a big responsibility and not everyone enjoys that responsibility. So here is another way to get started.
Take a kitchen timer and set if for 7 minutes. Leave the house and walk as far as you can until you hear the timer go off. Then turn for home. Check the time as soon as you get in.
When you start arriving home in less than 15 minutes from when you started out ( 7 minutes out and 8 minutes back ), you can start setting your timer for 10 minutes.
Then when you start getting back from your walk in 20 min. or less, add a few more minutes to your timer. The aim is to do a 30- 40 min. walk 3 or 4 times a week.
By only adding time as you "naturally" walk a bit faster, you will not push too hard in the beginning. Trying to walk too fast for our bodies is one of the main reasons why people give up their walking exercises.
Pedometer and good walking shoes
Many people find that buying a pedometer really helps them to increase their walking.
If you get a pedometer, wear it all day for a few days to discover how many steps you average each day. Then you can decide to 'add steps' until you are walking a few miles each day.
Some people 'walk in place' at home. Anyone with Osteoporosis wants to stay off icy and slippery streets. But you can step in time to music or walk the length of your house or apartments several times a day. Your pedometer will tell you when you have walked a mile or more! Pedometers are great helps.
Also, you want to be sure to buy a good pair of walking shoes. A good pair of walking shoes can go a long way to making walking a pleasant bone density exercise. They can also help prevent injuries.
If you want to consider other options for your exercise program go to:
bone density exercises