The aging process, along with reduced physical activity, can promote thin, fragile bones in senior citizens. But bone aging slows down or reverses when you incorporate strength training in your daily activities. Under load stress, your body uses proteins to form a bone-building matrix at the site of bone overload. The matrix allows calcification to take place, which increases bone density. Structural exercises that promote coordinated movement of several joints and large muscle groups achieve the greatest increases in bone growth.
Bone-building takes place at the site of bone overload. To ensure that both the upper body and lower body are gaining bone density, vary your exercise routine to include all the major muscle groups. As muscles pull against bones, bones bend slightly under the resistance, activating the bone-building system. Your bones become denser and stronger when you exercise regularly, according to Mindell and Hopkins, authors of "Prescription Alternatives: Hundreds of Safe, Natural, Prescription-Free Remedies to Restore and Maintain Your Health."
A warm-up period of five to eight minutes with exercises such as walking, arm circles, bicycling and jogging in place gets your blood flowing to your muscles and loosens up your joints, reducing the chances of injury. Brian Mac recommends strength-training exercises such as squats, calf raises, dead lifts, military presses, shoulder shrugs, bench presses, barbell presses, barbell curls and triceps extensions. Mac recommends doing such an exercise routine two to three times each week. In an article for Mayo Clinic Health Letter, Robert D. Sheeler, M.D., recommends doing 35 minutes of weight-bearing exercises a day by walking, climbing stairs or playing sports, for example.
Leg Press Calf Raises
Do leg press calf raises to work your legs. Sit in the leg press machine so your body forms a 90-degree angle. Place your feet shoulder-width apart with the balls of your feet on the low edge of the foot rest. Press the platform forward until your legs are fully extended. Do not lock your knees. Moving your ankles only, raise and lower your heels while pressing against the platform. For variation, turn your toes either inward to work the outer calves or outward to work the inner calves, or use one leg at a time for a more intense workout.
Stability Ball Wall Squats
Stand in front of a wall. Place a stability ball against a wall and press your lower back from the tailbone up to your mid-back against the ball. With your feet hip-width apart, point your toes forward. Place your feet six to 12 inches in front of your body and rest your hands on your thighs. Relax your shoulder blades and pull your shoulders back as you lean into the ball. Inhale and lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor or until you feel challenged. Exhale and raise your body to the starting position. Tense thigh and buttock muscles and avoid pushing your knees outward. Hold the down position for five seconds. Do five to 12 repetitions per set, with a 30-second rest period between the first and second sets.
Nutrition, physical activity level and hormones influence your body's response to resistance training. Those who are physically active and consume a nutritious diet will reap greater benefits. Regular exercise is important for maintenance, as the benefits of strength training for increased bone density revert to pre-exercise levels if you stop exercising. Get the most from your exercise routine by gently stretching for approximately five minutes at the end of your session.
- Natural News: Bone Density Sharply Enhanced by Weight Training, Even in the Elderly
- Brian Mac: Adaptation of Bone to Exercise
- Mayo Clinic Health Letter: Building Blocks of Bone
- Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning; Baechle, Thomas R. & Earle, Robert W.
- Prescription Alternatives: Hundreds of Safe, Natural, Prescription-Free Remedies to Restore and Safeguard Your Health; Earl Mindell and Virginia Hopkins
- Muscle & Fitness: GymFix: The Leg Press Calf Raise
- BodyBuilding.com: Calf Press on the Leg Press Machine
- ACE: Stability Ball Wall Squats
- Fitness: Squat with a Ball
- Photo Credit Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images