Weekly Wellness: Improve Your Bone and Joint Health!
COLUMBIA- By next year (2020), experts predict that one in two Americans over the age of 50 will develop (or be at risk of developing) osteoporosis! That is staggering! So what can we do to reduce this scary statistic in our own world? Well, you've heard me say it before and you'll hear me say it again… physical exercise and physical activity.
Exercise and physical activity are key to developing bone density. Now, with that said, once osteoporosis is present, there is limited evidence that exercise alone can improve bone density. Yet, research does suggest post-menopausal women can experience bone-mineral density improvements from high-intensity resistance and impact training.
If you are ready to try to start a new exercise program to specifically combat these bone and joint issues, and you are nervous, find a trainer who can help to guide you through a program that includes:
- Resistance training
- Spinal extensor strength
There are five great exercises that you can perform at home with little to no equipment. (Follow the link below to photos of each exercise if the instructions are difficult to grasp without visual assistance.)
Supine Limb Reach (to decompress the spine)
- Lie supine with the feet planted.
- Slide one foot out and bring the same-side arm by the ear.
- Inhale and stretch the heel and hand in opposite directions.
- Exhale and relax.
- Repeat several times before switching sides.
Ab Prep (to activate the deep lumbopelvic stabilizers that help with standing balance and postural control)
- Lie supine with the feet planted.
- Press the hands into the thighs while exhaling and engaging the deep core muscles (we call this the “zipup.”) Be sure the belly does not pop up.
- Inhale and release. Repeat six to eight times.
To increase the intensity of this movement, lift the legs into a 90/90 position with the feet at the height of the knees and the shins parallel to the ceiling. Press the hands into the thighs when exhaling and posteriorly tilt the pelvis so the lumbar spine flattens. Again, draw the belly in toward the mat. Hold for several seconds before releasing and repeating.
Knee Lifts (working the shoulder, trunk and hips to build endurance for spine and shoulder alignment while strengthening the back, abs and thighs)
- Move into a quadruped position (hands and knees) with the toes tucked.
- Exhale and hover the knees and lift the belly without rounding the back. Extend the neck to avoid the “dangling head syndrome.”
- Lower the knees and inhale to repeat.
To increase the intensity of this movement, lift a foot when lifting the knees or add a crawl forward and back.
Back Extension (for targeted spine strengthening, better balance and improved alignment)
- Lie prone with the hands by the hips; the palms should face up. Gently press the pubic bone into the mat to lift the belly.
- Hover the head and arms while looking down. Keep the feet down and isolate the effort into the muscles surrounding the upper thoracic spine. Hold for several seconds and repeat. Focus on reaching through the crown of head.
To increase the intensity of this movement, add 2- to 3-lb weights in each hand without compromising form. Or, circle the arms to the sides and to the ears without the shoulders shrugging.
Squats (to strengthen the hips, improve mobility and function, and load the skeleton)
- Stand with feet a little more than hip-width apart in slight external rotation. Hold 2- to 3-lb weights in each hand.
- Sit back while hinging at the hips and reaching the arms forward; return to the starting position. Keep the knees over the toes during the squat, the shoulders relaxed and the gaze forward. Repeat eight to 10 times.
To increase the intensity of this movement, hold the squat and shift the weight to one leg when rising, alternating sides. Or, put the weights aside and add a punch forward with alternating arms while holding the squat.