Impact of exercise on bones and muscles

Published April 12, 2014

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The benefits of exercise are well documented. It can help us manage our weight, keep us fit and promote a healthier state of mind. But exercise can do more than help us feel and look at our best; exercise has a significant impact on the health of our bones and muscles.

How does exercise help my bones?

Along with adequate calcium intake and normal vitamin D levels, physical activity is essential for supporting bone health and maintaining or improving bone density.1 Our bones become stronger when a certain amount of extra ‘stress’ is placed on them. This can be initiated by weight‐bearing exercise such as skipping with a rope, brisk walking or jogging, and playing tennis, netball or basketball.1

Resistance (strength) training can also make our bones stronger. This type of training includes lifting free weights, and using weight machines and resistance bands. You can also use your own body by doing sit‐ups, abdominal curls, push‐ups, chin‐ups or squats.2 The bone‐building benefits of exercise are increased when it’s regular, at least three times a week, gets progressively harder, the routine is varied, and the weight bearing exercises are performed over several short, intensive bursts rather than one long session.1

How does exercise help my muscles?

Exercise can increase the size, strength and capacity of our muscles1 and slow the rate of muscle loss that occurs with age.3 Resistance training is the best form of exercise to improve muscle health and is based on the principle that the muscles will work to overcome a resistance force when required to do so, therefore increasing in size and strength.2 In addition, by working our muscles we’re also working our bones. When muscles tug and push on bone during resistance exercise it stimulates extra deposits of calcium into bone and activates our bone‐forming cells.4 As a bonus, when we build muscle, our body will burn more kilojoules at rest.2

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