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Aerobic and Balance Exercises to Lower Fracture Risk

Adding Bone-Building Loads To Aerobic ExerciseA close-up image of a flower's stamen, heavy with pollen

In research, women who walked while wearing weighted vests lowered fracture risk. A well-constructed backpack works well in place of a weighted vest.

Take a 30 minute walk wearing your backpack 2-3 times a week. Begin by adding a 2 1/2 lb weight lifting plate or a few cans of soup.

If you feel comfortable with that, add another weight lifting plate or two more cans for a total of 4-5 pounds. Keep adding to your load in small increments, increasing the weight you carry until it is too heavy to get the pack on safely or too heavy to enjoy your walk. If you aren’t enjoying yourself, you won’t keep walking.

Many women work up to 25-40 lbs. You may need to use a towel or blanket to pad your back against the weight for comfort. You’re adding progressively larger loads to your bones, and that will strengthen bones in the spine, hips, and whole body.

Balance Tests and Exercises to Lower Risk of Falling

Testing for Balance: Stand near a counter or stable chair and/or have a spotter. Wear athletic shoes. First tests are easiest. If you can’t do one, don’t try the next. Instead master the one you can’t do by practicing it and other balance exercises listed below, and then move on to more difficult tests. You’ll notice the small muscles in your feet, ankles, and legs working to keep you balanced. You’ll also notice that a little practice will make you proficient at these tests. Just as important as lowering risk of falling, balance exercises lower fear of falling.

1. Tandem stand. Lightly holding your support (counter or chair back), stand with one foot before the other, one heel touching one toe. Distribute weight evenly on feet. Steady yourself and let go of support. Goal is to hold for 10 seconds without using hands.

2. One-legged stand. Hold a support. Shift weight to 1 foot. Bend other knee to bring that foot up toward calf. When you’re balanced on 1 leg, let go of support, keeping your hand out so you can grab it if needed. Hold position for 10 seconds.

3. Tandem stand with eyes closed. You need a spotter for this. Stand next to counter with heel of front foot touching toes of back foot. When you’re steady, close eyes and let go of support and hold for 10 seconds.

4. Tandem stand with eyes closed and head turning. Use a spotter. Hold counter for support and repeat directions for tandem stand with eyes closed. Slowly turn head from side to side. Do this for 10 seconds.

5. One-legged stand with closed eyes. Use a spotter. Follow directions for one-legged stand. When you’re balanced on 1 leg, let go of support, keeping hands ready to catch yourself.

Exercises for Balance: Practice a few minutes each day, becoming competent with one exercise before working on the next on the list

1. Toe walks. Walk on toes with erect body and chest up. Begin along a wall so you can catch yourself.

2. Grapevine walk. Stand so you have space to move to right. Take a step out to the side with R foot. Cross L foot over R and shift weight into L foot. Take a second step to the R with R foot and cross L foot behind R. Repeat until you run out of space. Increase difficulty by increasing speed, but not at the expense of maintaining your balance.

3. One leg stand with knee bend. Do one leg stand and slowly bend the weight-bearing leg. Work up to repeating the bend 10 times on each side.

4. One leg stand with arm swing. Lift one leg off floor and swing arms in gait pattern. Begin by lifting foot just a few inches and swinging arms slightly. Progress by lifting foot higher and increasing arm movement.

5. One leg stand with eyes closed. First get balanced on 1 leg, then close eyes, keeping arms poised to support you.

High Impact Exercises to Build Bone Density

High impact exercise such as jumping rope, jumping jacks, or vertical jumps are safe for women who are pre-menopausal or in good condition, don’t have osteoporosis, and have healthy knees. This exercise puts stress on all leg joints, especially knees, so proceed carefully.

Practice jumping 3-6 times a week, building slowly from 10 to 50 jumps.

Resources

Strong Women, Strong Bones by Miriam Nelson.