13 Ways to Strengthen Your Bones

The secret to having strong bones later lies in the choices you make now.

13 Ways to Strengthen Your Bones
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Exercise for a stronger skeleton
7. GET ON YOUR FEET Weight-bearing activities—from walking and running to jump-roping and dancing—are some of the most efficient ways to build bone density.

“They place a higher load on your muscles, tendons and bones, which respond by getting stronger,” explains Nicholas DiNubile, M.D., a clinical assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Pennsylvania and author of FrameWork: Your 7 Step Program for Healthy Muscles, Bones & Joints (Rodale). Weightlessness is the reason that astronauts lose up to 30 percent of their bone mass in four to six months in space. And zero-impact activities like bicycling and swimming don’t build bone: One study found that competitive male cyclists actually had lower bone density than nonathletes.

8. PUMP IRON Strength training is the best kind of weight-bearing exercise. “It gives you the best bang for your buck,” DiNubile says. Be sure to log at least two weight-lifting sessions per week, each lasting long enough (45 minutes to an hour) to target all of your major muscle groups and core. Moves that utilize your own body weight, like push-ups and lunges, work, too.

9. TAKE UP TAI CHI Several studies have demonstrated that tai chi slows bone loss. It’s also been shown to decrease production of the inflammatory stress hormone cortisol, a steroid. “High levels of steroids over time can increase the risk of osteoporosis,” says David Rakel, M.D., director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health’s Integrative Medicine Program.