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How Exercise Keeps Your Bones Strong (And Why You Should Care)

How Exercise Keeps Your Bones Strong 

Most women don’t workout to build strong bones, or prevent arthritis/osteoporosis – it’s likely something that they’ve likely never thought about. We also tend to take it for granted until something goes seriously wrong. Even osteoporosis goes often undetected until our first fracture.

But what if I told you that building a healthy skeleton was the nutshell of your movement? That it’s the thing that protects and supports you, while being the chief operating producer of blood cells? (It also is responsible for storage of minerals and endocrine regulation.)

Movement is powered by skeletal muscles, attached to the skeleton at various sites on bones. Muscles, bones, and joints provide the principal mechanics for movement, all coordinated by the nervous system. So what does that mean to you? Without a strong skeleton, it’s impossible to have strong muscles.

You know when you’re running fast and out of breath? It’s your rib cage supporting your lungs.

Without the rib cages, costal cartilages (end of the ribs) and intercostal muscles that run between the ribs to help you breathe, the lungs would collapse.

We’re never too young to start thinking about our future, and having a rock solid skeleton is the foundation of all things fitness.


Osteoporosis is a condition referring to bones that are porous. Bones are rebuilt throughout our lifetime. They are made up of collagen and a calcium mineral that makes the bone hard. Osteoporosis is a result of losing minerals and calcium. This in turn thins your bones. Osteoporosis is most common in women after menopause or as a result of smoking. Strong bones protect against osteoporosis. According to Len Kravitz, Ph.D., exercise scientist with the University of New Mexico, men and women over 35 have a 1 percent bone loss each year.

Do You Recognize The 3 Early Warning Signs Of Your Skeleton Needing Strengthening?

#1 Your Back Hurts, And You Can’t Figure Out Why

#2 Even Though You ‘Stand Up Straight’, You Don’t Feel Straight

#3 The Stress Monster Is Eating You For Breakfast


#1 Your Back Hurts, And You Can’t Figure Out Why

If you haven’t really been doing anything that has put strain on your back, but it’s still sore, perhaps cut back on your meat intake.

Excessive animal protein for your body weight can lead to loss of calcium in the urine. Do this for a couple of decades and you may find out too late that you’ve been failing to meet your calcium needs.

It’s not how much we eat that matters, it’s how much we absorb. Calcium prevents osteoporosis.

#2 Even Though You ‘Stand Up Straight’, You Don’t Feel Straight..

Your Mom might not be around as much these days to tell you to sit up straight, and to look up when you walk – but if doing these things becomes challenging for you, it may indicate that something is wrong. If somewhere between the aches and pains there are changes to your vertebrae that are affecting your posture, take note. Do some yoga – and start strength training!

Not only does lifting weights prevent you from losing precious existing bone, studies show that it might even help you build new bone. This exciting news is a major breakthrough in reducing risk of osteoporosis-related conditions in the aging population. It will also prevent falls – the stronger you are, the more balance and coordination you will maintain.

Muscles and bones both get stronger from regular workouts, which means any weight-bearing exercises. Even water aerobics can be weight-bearing! Anything that forces your movements to push against gravity will build new bone because your muscles pull on bones when you work them. This is why overweight people with a BMI over 33 almost never get osteoporosis – because they are putting (positive) stress on their bones to do everyday activities, therefore causing their bones to adapt.


#3 The Stress Monster Is Eating You For Breakfast

You’ve heard it a hundred times – stress is bad for your health. But did you know that the higher levels of cortisol hormone can lead to also a higher rate of cell death in the cells that build your bones?

When your cortisol levels are escalated for a few years too long, there’s a really strong chance that you are tapping into your bone reserve. Researchers have found that walking just one mile a day can help.

Another side-effect of living in stress is often eating too much salt and fat. This usually leads to weight gain, and it also circles back to my first point about losing extra calcium in the urine. And if you’re not getting enough calcium in your diet, your body takes it from your bones, so that your muscles and heart can stay healthy.

To maintain strong bones throughout your life and prevent osteoarthritic conditions: lift weights, do weight-bearing exercise (even if it hurts at first), eat meat as a treat only – but not too much, stretch and do yoga… and try to live as stress-free as possible.

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Cat Smiley

Cat Smiley

Fitness Director at Whistler Fitness Vacations
Cat Smiley is a certified Life Coach, Master Trainer, Wilderness Guide and Sports Nutritionist (author of The Planet Friendly Diet). She has been named 3-time Canadian Trainer of the Year by the International Sports Science Association and is a former professional athlete. Follow her on Linkedin or Facebook - and of course, sign up for a fitness program with us to work with her in Whistler!
Cat Smiley
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