You may not give your bones much thought -- an out of sight, out of mind kind of thing -- but bones are an important health issue for women. Of the 10 million people diagnosed with osteoporosis, 80 percent of them are women, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Exercise improves bone strength and lowers your risk of osteoporosis, but you don't need to join a gym to get better bones.
Low-Impact Weight-Bearing Exercises
When muscle pulls on your bone, it helps make the bone denser and stronger. Weight-bearing exercises pull muscles to build bone. If you're new to physical activity, low-impact exercises are a good place to start because they are safe and don't require a great deal of physical fitness. Fast walking is an example of a low-impact weight-bearing exercise you can easily do outside, or even at the mall, to help strengthen your bones. You don't even need any special equipment or clothing to get started, just a comfortable pair of walking shoes.
High-Impact Weight-Bearing Exercises
High-impact weight-bearing exercises also help build bone strength, but require a higher fitness level. You should talk to your doctor first before starting any exercise program to make sure it's safe, especially if you have concerns about osteoporosis and breaking bones. Jogging, jumping rope and tennis are examples of high-impact weight-bearing exercises you can do without a gym. If you think these sound too much like exercise, you can always go out dancing, another example of a high-impact weight-bearing, bone-building activity.
Since muscle pulling on bones helps make them stronger, it makes sense that resistance training -- a fancy term for muscle-building exercises -- is part of the bone-building program. Resistance training may have you thinking of big, bulky men grunting and lifting heavy weights at the gym, but it's more about using some form of resistance -- either your body, weights or elastic exercise bands -- against gravity. Leg lunges, squats, sit-ups, push-ups and crunches are examples of resistance training exercise you can easily do at home in front of the TV. You can also invest in some free weights or an elastic exercise band to add variety to your muscle and bone-building exercise routine.
Whether you choose low-impact or high-impact weight-bearing exercises, make sure you commit to 30 minutes a day, three to four days a week to help improve bone health. You should also work out your muscles with your resistance-training exercises two to three days a week, taking days off in between workouts to rest both your muscles and bones. Try to vary your routines from week to week to work out different muscle groups, and increase your activity level and resistance as your fitness level improves.
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.