So you want to spice up your workouts, and venture into weight-bearing territory. Smart move. Regularly doing weight-bearing exercise, which forces you to work against gravity, is among the best ways to bolster your bones and help prevent osteoporosis. The disease, which weakens bones and causes them to break easily, affects 40-plus million people in the U.S. who have either been diagnosed with osteoporosis or are at high risk because of low bone mass, according to the National Institutes of Health. The good news: Weight-bearing moves can easily be done at home with stair climbing, gardening and dancing; or outdoors with hiking, tennis, brisk walking and jogging; or at the gym with gentle aerobics, ellipticals, stair climbers, weight training.
If your fitness goals involve toned arms, flat stomach, tight booty, sculpted legs and a thinner waist, regular weight-bearing exercise can help you achieve them, says New York City-based celebrity trainer Joel Harper. Remember, the Surgeon General recommends clocking at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week, which fewer than one-third of American adults get. If you have any health condition, consult your doctor before trying any new fitness regimen.
When grunting to weight-bearing exercises at the gym, aim to keep the number of consecutive reps high, the weights light and manageable and to stretch immediately after, advises Harper. Aim for 30-minute to one-hour sessions of weight-bearing exercise two to three days weekly, says Harper, always skipping a day in-between to give muscles time to repair. The machines you want to ask your gym or personal trainer about are as follows: 1) Abductor, adductor, and butt blaster 2) Cardio machines including the elliptical, stair-climber, rowing, step-up, treadmill 3) Chest press 4) Flyes 5) Horizontal biceps curl 6) Triceps press
Exercise One: Knee Bounce
Try this first of a trio of Harper's favorite weight-bearing exercises on a mat at the gym, or at home. It powers your whole body, especially your quads and knees, thereby strengthening them for running. Start on all fours with hands under shoulders, knees under hips. With slightly bent elbows and a straight line from top of head to tailbone, lift one knee an inch off the ground while the other remains planted on the ground. Bounce the lifted knee up and down, about an inch in each direction. Start out bouncing for 20 repetitions, then switch knees and repeat. Ideally, over time, work your way up to being able to complete 100 reps non-stop with each knee.
Towel Run, Triceps Cooker
For the towel run, place a towel underneath your feet atop a smooth surface. Make sure your feet are on the towel's sides, so the towel is now scrunched between them. Run in place, completing at least 20 counts — every other leg touching the ground counts as one — non-stop, working your way to completing 100 non-stop. Bring your knees as far forward as possible. Keep your stomach taut and keep a straight line remains from top of head to tailbone. The triceps cooker works triceps, legs, and core. Sit with knees bent, feet on floor, hands behind hips on ground, fingers facing forward. Lift hips while raising right leg. Bend elbows, lower butt toward heels. Straighten arms. Repeat, switching legs after 30 seconds. For an easier start, keep feet grounded.
Julie D. Andrews is a writer and editor living in New York City. Her articles have appeared in print or on the websites of "Prevention," "Glamour," "Fitness," "Shape," "Cosmopolitan Latina," "Elle" and "New York Magazine."