Walking is an excellent exercise and is easily accessible to most people. But is it good enough to build bones? Should it be part of your osteoporosis exercise program?
Walking has been shown to reduce your hip fracture risk by as much as 40%(1). A review of walking as a form of bone building tells us a couple of key things:
- Most of the impact of your step is absorbed through the foot, ankle, knee and hip. As a result, walking is good for building and preserving bone in the lower body. Walking does not provide enough stimulus for the spine or upper body (2).
- Brisk walking showed better bone building than walking at a more leisurely pace.
How Much Walking Do You Need To Do?
- Optimal amount of walking appears to be 3 to 4 hours per week.
- You should walk at a brisk pace.
How You Can Optimize Your Walking Program
- Wearing a weighted vest will allow you to get loading through your spine and more loading through your lower body. If you have a rounded back (increased kyphosis) you can still wear a weighted vest but with much less weight and have it sit just below and between your shoulder blades.
- Alternatively, if you have disc problems, shoulder, neck or back pain you would likely do better with a weighted belt. This would add to the intensity in your legs but not your back.
- Nordic poles are another great way to incorporate more spinal muscle activation into your walking. Using Nordic poles ensures you always have two points of contact with the ground. This is especially helpful when conditions are slippery. The additional support helps make brisk walking more secure. An additional benefit: you also use the muscles of your arms and trunk when you walk with poles.
The Other Benefits of Walking
- It is the most practical form of exercise that most of us can do. It needs no special equipment, gets us from one place to another and can easily be done anytime of the day.
- Walking can be done in a meditative fashion or a brisk cardio building fashion.
- It is also very social and productive. It is a wonderful way to catch up with friends or meet new ones.
- It provides an intimate way to explore a new city or get in better touch with an old one.
I always recommend strength training along side a walking program. Strength training can complement your walking by making hills feel easier and provide bone-building benefit to your legs, arms and spine. Happy trails!
- Kohrt, W.M. Exercise and the Preservation of Bone Health with Aging, ASBMR 2011
- Martyn-StJames M, Carroll S. Meta-analysis of walking for preservation of bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. Bone. 2008 Sep 43(3):521-31
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