Swimming and Bone Strength

Bone health and exercise

Swimming is an excellent exercise for cardiovascular fitness and weight maintenance. It is also one of the best activities around for cooling off on hot summer days. However, swimming is not the best exercise for improving bone strength and bone density.

Loss of Bone Strength

strong bones

Loss of bone strength often stems from osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become weak and vulnerable to fractures because of low bone density. It’s estimated that about half of women older than 50 years of age will break a bone because of osteoporosis, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.

Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break.

It’s a fairly common condition that affects around three million people in the UK. More than 300,000 people receive hospital treatment for fragility fractures (fractures that occur from standing height or less) every year as a result of osteoporosis.

Wrist fractures, hip fractures and fractures of the vertebrae (bones in the spine) are the most common type of breaks that affect people with osteoporosis. However, they can also occur in other bones, such as in the arm, ribs or pelvis.

There are usually no warnings you’ve developed osteoporosis and it’s often only diagnosed when a bone is fractured after even minor falls.

What can be done to avoid osteoporosis? 

Your genes are responsible for determining your height and the strength of your skeleton, but lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise influence how healthy your bones are.

REGULAR EXERCISE

Regular exercise is essential. Adults aged 19 to 64 should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week.

Weight-bearing exercise and resistance exercise are particularly important for improving bone density and helping to prevent osteoporosis.

As well as aerobic exercise, adults aged 19 to 64 should also do muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week by working all the major muscle groups, including the legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms.

If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, it’s a good idea to talk to your GP or health specialist before starting a new exercise programme to make sure it’s right for you.

WEIGHT-BEARING EXERCISES

running

Weight-bearing exercises are exercises, where your feet and legs support your weight. High-impact weight-bearing exercises, such as running, skipping, dancing, aerobics, and even jumping up and down on the spot, are all useful ways to strengthen your muscles, ligaments and joints.

When exercising, wear footwear that provides your ankles and feet with adequate support, such as trainers or walking boots.

People over the age of 60 can also benefit from regular weight-bearing exercise. This can include brisk walking, keep-fit classes or a game of tennis. Swimming and cycling aren’t weight-bearing exercises, however.

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