Exercise: What’s Healthy for the Heart is Healthy for Your Bones

By John C. Kagan, M.D. –

exerciseAccording to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, only 10 percent of Americans participate in regular exercise. Of the 90 percent of sedentary adult Americans, a majority are over the age of 50 and at a higher risk for developing high blood pressure, heart disease and some forms of cancer. Although reducing heart disease symptoms may motivate people to visit the gym, there are so many benefits of regular exercise that go beyond heart health – including bone health.

A regular exercise program can improve heart function, build stronger bones, enhance muscle strength and improve balance to reduce your risk for falling. Taking a brisk walk, for example, is considered a weight-bearing aerobic activity that increases oxygen intake, strengthens your heart to pump more blood which improves circulation, as well as lowering blood pressure. Walking and other weight-bearing activities also cause new bone tissue to form, making bones stronger.

When muscles push and tug against bones during physical activity like walking, jogging and playing tennis, both the bones and muscles become stronger. Moderate aerobic activities on a daily basis such as general gardening, doing water aerobics, golfing, yoga, and actively playing with children, can help improve a body’s overall strength which may reduce potential effects of diseases like osteoarthritis – a breakdown of cartilage in between the bones.

For those seeking optimal results from exercise activity, an aerobic practice should be mixed with exercises that focus on flexibility and strength training to create a well-rounded program.

Aerobic Conditioning
When you exercise aerobically, you move continuously to increase your heart rate. Your goal is to keep your heart rate elevated for a sustained period of time. How long you can exercise aerobically will depend on your fitness level. A general guideline is to work up to 20 to 30 minutes a day, three to four days a week.

Flexibility Exercises
Stretching will help you improve your range of motion and how well you can move. Flexibility exercises also help lessen muscle tension and soreness, and reduce your risk for injury. Stretches for both your upper and lower body should be done at the end of every exercise session.

Strength Training
Strength training is good for both your muscles and bones. Stronger bones and muscles reduce your risk for injury. The most common strength training methods are working with free weights and weight machines, or doing exercises that use your own body weight (push-ups, for example).

If it’s been awhile since you last exercised, be sure to connect with your healthcare provider to discuss any risk factors in order to develop a safe exercise program. If you are currently experiencing the effects of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, which gradually diminish a person’s abilities to fully participate in activities, know that there are non-impact exercises and muscle-strengthening exercises that are a great fit to help promote strength and slow the progression of these health issues.

Exercise also helps maintain the body’s response time to things like tripping, which could help avoid falls that may break bones, as well as its ability to deliver and use oxygen efficiently within the body. Just 30 minutes of activity, incorporated into your daily routine, can provide health benefits that could keep you pain-free and healthy inside and out.

Dr. John Kagan has more than 30 years of experience as an orthopedic surgeon treating patients in Southwest Florida. He specializes in treating patients with knee, shoulder and hip pain, as well as general orthopedics and hand surgery.  For more information go to www.kaganortho.com.

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