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5 Ways to Exercise Your Bones

These easy moves can help keep your body strong

spinner image woman standing on a track outdoors performing a squat exercise
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Beginning in our 30s, we experience a gradual decline in bone mineral density, losing about 1 percent each year. But there’s evidence that if you are physically active on a regular basis, you can optimize your bone health throughout your life, says Wendy Kohrt, distinguished professor of medicine in the Division of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Colorado.

Any movement that causes you to fight gravity by standing up and moving is good for your bones. If you want to amp up the protection, these five exercises will help keep you — and your bones — strong for life.

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spinner image man doing standing push ups against a wall

1. Push-ups

You can do these against a wall, on bent knees or on the floor. Extend your arms and put your hands shoulder-width apart on the surface in front of you. Tighten your abs, then bend your arms, lowering your torso toward the surface. Push yourself back up. Perform the exercise three to five times, rest, and repeat for a second set.

spinner image woman doing a squat while holding on to the back of a sturdy chair

2. Squats

You don’t have to do a deep squat for this exercise to be effective. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, then bend at the knees to slowly squat down. (Rest your hand on a sturdy object if you need extra balance.) Squat as far as you can, but don’t let your butt get below your knees. At the bottom of the movement, tighten your buttocks and use your butt and thigh muscles to return to a standing position. Repeat eight to 12 times.

spinner image woman stomping her leg while walking

3. Walk and stomp

Bones are stimulated when they’re jolted, something that doesn’t happen on your typical stroll. Running and hiking will fit the bill, but if walking is more your speed, consider a walk-and-stomp routine: While walking, stomp each foot two or three times every 10 steps or so, imagining you are crushing a can. (BTW: Walking on real ground requires you to lift and push off with your legs in a way that’s much more beneficial than using a treadmill.)

spinner image woman climbing a flight of stairs

4. Stair-climb

Stair-climbing increases bone density, particularly in postmenopausal women, because it forces your body to resist gravity as you climb while strengthening the leg and hip muscles that support your pelvic bones. Use a handrail as needed — and consider adding an occasional stomp for more bone stimulation.

spinner image man standing with one hand supporting him on a counter and lifting one leg about six inches off the floor

5. Hip-leg lifts

This exercise strengthens the muscles around your hip bones, which are vulnerable to fracture, and can help to improve balance. To begin, place your hand on a counter or against a wall for balance, and set your feet hip-width apart. Shift your weight onto your left foot, then straighten your right leg and lift it out in front of you until your right foot is about 6 inches off the floor. Do a set of eight to 12 lifts, then shift your weight to your right foot and repeat the motion with your left leg.

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