By Dr. Harold Vanderschmidt, Specialist Orthopedic Surgeon, Specialized in Arthroscopic Surgery of Knee and Shoulder and Dr. Faisal Hayat Khan, Chief Physiotherapist at Burjeel Hospital for Advanced Surgery
If you have a family history of bone disease or are at risk, you should make some healthy lifestyle choices at the earliest to protect your bones. These steps should include the right diet, which includes nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, vitamin D, K2 and magnesium, as they are critical for strong bones, as is a regular exercise regimen to promote bone health. The latter is particularly crucial, as exercise can help build bone density and strength. This is reason enough for you to hit the gym. Here are some of the main benefits of a regular exercise routine including stronger bones, improved immunity and increased levels of energy:
According to the US-based National Osteoporosis Foundation, there are two types of exercises that are important for building and maintaining bone density: weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises. The former could include both high and low impact activities. High impact exercises, which include dancing, high impact aerobics, hiking, jogging or running, jumping rope, tennis and climbing stairs are important for strengthening the bones, however people suffering from osteoporosis are at risk for fractures and should avoid them; instead they should opt for the low impact variations in the gym such as working with elliptical machines, running on a treadmill or using a stepper/ stair climber.
One of the most popular activities in the gym include working out with a range of free weights and machines that use weights. These exercises, which offer resistance against gravity, build the bones and protect the bones and use everything from body weight, and elastic exercise bands, to lifting weights and functional movements. Weight bearing exercises are best done 30 minutes on most days of the week; a 30 minute session every day is recommended. Muscle strengthening exercises need to be done two to three times a week for best results.
Exercises such as yoga, tai chi and Pilates are also important because they build flexibility, balance and strength. A trained professional will guide you to follow a series of postures that are meant to develop lean muscles that allow you to be agile as well as improve your balance and reduce the risk of falls that could end in broken bones. These forms of exercise also increase the range of movement of the joints, lowering the risk injury through muscle tears or torn ligaments.
Studies show that the best time to work out is to do cardiovascular exercises in the morning, and weight training (and resistance training) in the afternoon or earlier part of the evening. Resistance training in the evening helps the body prepare for sleep by warming it up. A combination of both exercises can help you get more quality sleep, leaving you refreshed next morning. Exercising also releases mood boosting endorphins in the body; these don’t just help your mind stay in high spirits, they also help fight off symptoms of depression as well as pain.
Studies also show that that exercise can boost cognitive function and enhance memory as well as deal with stress. A study conducted by theUniversity of Missouri-Columbia found that high-intensity exercise is better at reducing stress and anxiety than low-intensity exercise.
Exercise can increase your metabolism and promote weight loss, which in turn, can relieve the pressure on your joints and bones. Working out regularly also helps boost energy, as it helps improve the body’s function by providing more oxygen to fuel your body’s cells. The result is lesser aches and pains and more strength and vitality to carry out the day’s activities.
Hitting the gym more often can help you fight heart disease and hypertension. Being active increases levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or ‘good’ cholesterol and reduces unhealthy disease-causing triglycerides. It can also keep a range of health problems at bay, including diabetes, stroke, certain types of cancer and arthritis. Exercise improves overall health and builds immunity. It can bolster your body’s ability to fight colds and other illnesses.
If you haven’t exercised regularly for a while, check with your healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise regimen—particularly if you have health problems such as osteoporosis, osteopenia, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure.