Anti-aging exercise: Weight bearing activity

Anti-aging exercise. You may have read that exercise  promotes health and happiness. Many books and articles suggest walking, jogging, running and other 'aerobic' exercise. BUT it is also important to include exercises that are 'weight bearing'.  Why? These stimulate your body to build new, strong bones.

Your bones are living tissues. Your bones constantly renew themselves - discarding 'old' weaker bone and creating new strong bones.   How is this done? Your bones have two types of cells. Osteoclasts  that remove old bone. Osteblasts build new bone.

Until age 33 or 35 your Osteoblasts are more active than your Osteoclasts. (This is why children's bones grow longer each year and why the bones of young adults get denser and thicker each year.) After age 35, your Osteoblasts slow down. The balance between Osteoblasts and Osteoclasts shifts. And if you do not take special care to build new, strong bone, your body will remove more bone than it makes. Result? Your bones may become thin (Osteopenia) and if the bone removal continues unabated you will have a  more serious condition: Osteoporosis (porous bones). With either of these conditions, you are at greater risk for fractures.

When doing Anti-aging exercise, it is important to include some that 'weight bearing'. These exercises are what stimulate your Osteoblasts to build new bone.

Your bones are living tissues. Like all tissues, bone renews itself. Osteoclasts are cells that remove old bone and Osteblasts are the cells that build new bone. Up until age 33 or 35 your Osteoblasts (bone builders) are more active than your Osteoclasts.   That is why children's bones grow longer and why the bones of young adults get denser and thicker. But after age 35, things change. Your bone building Osteoblast cells slow down and your body begins to remove more bone than it makes.

If you do not work at building bone, you will develop Osteopenia.   (thin bones). This  can progress to  a more serious condition, Osteoporosis (porous bones). With either condition, you are at greater risk for fractures.

How weight bearing activities help

When you put stress on your bones, your Osteoblasts (bone building) cells are stimulated to greater activity. Various types of weight bearing activities can be an Anti-aging exercise for your bones. And the sooner you start after reaching your mid-thirties, the better. You can prevent excessive bone loss before it starts!

What sorts of Anti-aging exercise fits the 'weight bearing' definition.

First let's consider what is NOT a weight bearing activity. Two popular activities come to mind: swimming and cycling. Many people feel surprise to find that these activities are not bone builders. But it is true. In fact, long distance cyclists have been found to have more bone loss that participants in any other sport.

Also, excessive exercise of any type is not good for your bones. Recent research has shown the going to the gym 3 or 4 times a week and working out for an hour or two could interfere with bone building.  MORE is not always better.


Weight bearing activity that will have a positive effect on your bones:

  • Walking. Walking is one of the very few activities that fits all three Anti-aging exercise types: balance & co-ordination, cardio-vascular AND it can be weight bearing. Example:  Research studies show that fast walking can prevent bone loss in adults. Fast walking stimulates your Osteoblasts to make bone.  Since most adults lose about 1% of bone a year ( women lose about 4-5% during and right after menopause) anything tht builds bone is worth considering.   Read more about this at: Walking as an Anti-aging exercise"
  • Impact exercise: jumping, hopping, jogging, running and walking downstairs all fit in this category. (Note: Researches have found that walking up stairs is a good cardio-vascular activity but walking downstairs stimulates stronger bones.)                                                                                         A special caution: If you have bone loss, the jarring found in jumping, hopping, jogging or running could cause small or regular fractures on impact. If you have any of the risks for Osteopenia it might be a good idea to have a dexa scan screening before starting an impact activity program. In any case, do check with your health care provider before starting a new exercise program.
  • Weight lifting. As early as the 1970's researchers at Tuffts University found that lifting weights can increase bone density - even in those who already have excessive bone loss....even among persons in their 70's and 80's!                                                                          Great news since the older you get, the more difficulty it is to build new bone. So the fact that the elders can increase bone density through lifting weights, is encouraging. Of course the weight lifting has to be done in a special way.       If you go to a gym, you will see many body builders lifting weights. Some use the momentum of the weight  to help with the lifting. They lift their weights fast. That sort of lifting will not build stronger bones as much as s-l-o-w lifting and s-l-0-w return to place.                                              If you are lifting weights as an Anti-aging exercise, you want to lift  slowly - some would say to the count of 8 (ie., count 8 up and 8 down - a count of 10 is even better.)  When the weight if fully extended from your body, hold it there for a second, then bring it back to its original place just as slowly, to the same count as you used for lifting it up.                                                                                                       How heavy a weight? Start with a weight you find very easy to lift. This will help you get into the rhythm of s-l-o-w count up and s-l-o-w return. Lift each weight with your slow count 2 or 3 times. After you are used to the slow rhythm begin to increase your weight each week until you have a weight  that you can  lift only for one full count of 10.                   In time, you will find it easier to lift that weight. When you can lift it with a slow count out and slow count back 10 times and you can do that 3 times in a row,  you are ready to go to the next level weight.                                          Note: If you are doing this this Anti-aging exercise to build stronger bones, do not rush to get on heavier weights too. This is not a contest. Your Osteoblasts respond to NEW stress, so each progressive weight increase can stimulate the building of bone. If you rush ahead, skipping weights, you will have cheated yourself of some extra bone building.
  • Any heavy manual labor: gardening, carpentry, stacking cord wood, carrying bags of groceries, carrying children orboxes of books etc. are all weight bearing activities that can stimulate your Osteoblasts to build more bone.        More than one adult has decided to build in 'small' increases in their Anti-aging exercise by parking a distance from stores in the mall and carrying packages to their car - instead of using a rolling cart. Others insist on walking downstairs instead of taking escalators or elevators. 

The choice is yours. You can build weight bearing activities into your day or you can go to they gym to life weights or you can buy some weights to use at home. But weight bearing is one of the most important kinds of Anti-Aging exercise activity's for anyone who wants to remain young and vibrant into their 90's.

All other Anti-aging activities will be of little use if you need a walker or wheel chair because you broke your hip or if you have developed a back hump from spontaneous spinal fractures.

You need weight bearing activity and the sooner you begin the better for you.