Is walking good for osteoporosis? What is the relationship between walking and bone density? We all know walking is an excellent exercise and is easily accessible to most people. Should it be part of your osteoporosis exercise program?
At the end of this blog I provide tips on how to keep walking for osteoporosis even when the weather changes and walking is a challenge.
This is the third in a series of articles I have identified as the most important osteoporosis articles.
Is Walking Good for Osteoporosis and Does Walking Increase Bone Density?
Clients often ask me: is walking good for osteoporosis? Does walking increase bone density?
Walking has been shown to reduce your hip fracture risk by as much as 40%(1). A review of the relationship between walking and bone density tells us a couple of key things:
- Most of the impact of your step is absorbed through the foot, ankle, knee and hip.
- As a result, walking is good for increasing bone density and preserving it in the lower body.
- Walking does not provide enough stimulus for the spine or upper body (2).
- Brisk walking showed better bone building than walking at a more leisurely pace.
How Much Walking Do You Need To Do?
- Optimal amount of walking appears to be 3 to 4 hours per week.
- You should walk at a brisk pace.
How You Can Optimize Your Walking for Osteoporosis
Here are a couple of tips on how optimizing your walking to build bone density.
- Wearing a weighted vest for osteoporosis will allow you to get loading through your spine and more loading through your lower body. If you have a rounded back (increased kyphosis) you can still wear a weighted vest but with much less weight and have it sit just below and between your shoulder blades. I have reviewed a number of weighted vests for osteoporosis and my recommended ones are the HyperVest Pro and the IronWear Weighted Vest.
- Alternatively, if you have disc problems, shoulder, neck or back pain you would likely do better with a weighted belt. This would add to the intensity in your legs but not your back. However, before you purchase a weighted belt, make sure that the belts (with the weights in) fits your waist. Also keep in mind that the weighted belt will load your feet and knees. Too much weight through your feet could lead to plantar fasciitis.
- Nordic poles are another great way to incorporate more spinal muscle activation into your walking. Nordic poles ensure you always have two points of contact with the ground. This is especially helpful when conditions are slippery. The additional support helps make brisk walking more secure. An additional benefit: you also use the muscles of your arms and trunk when you walk with poles. To learn more, I encourage you to read my Nordic Walking Guide.
The Other Benefits of Walking for Osteoporosis
- It is the most practical form of exercise that most of us can do. It needs no special equipment, gets us from one place to another and can easily be done anytime of the day.
- Walking can be done in a meditative fashion or a brisk cardio building fashion.
- It is also very social and productive. Many of my clients find it to be a wonderful way to catch up with friends or meet new ones.
- Walking provides an intimate way to explore a new city or get in better touch with an old one.
I always recommend strength training along side a walking program. Strength training can complement your walking by making hills feel easier and provide bone-building benefit to your legs, arms and spine. Happy trails!
Walking for Osteoporosis When the Weather Changes
How do you keep walking when the weather changes? As the Fall season sets in (winter is soon to come), it brings with it weather that may not accommodate your regular walking (or Nordic walking) schedule. Just because it is getting cooler and wetter you should not stop your walking exercise program.
Keep Your Walking and Bone Density Exercise Program Going
Both of these tips use inexpensive and very accessible ways to insulate your feet and your body to keep you warm, dry and active. In other words, you do not need to spend a lot of money on expensive walking shoes and coats to keep active in the Fall.
How to Keep Your Feet Warm and Dry • Inexpensively
It is Fall. The weather is cool and the day is wet but you are not ready to pull out the winter boots. Here is what I do. I get two bags and place each bag over my socks. The bags should be thin like the ones you get at the vegetable and fruit area in your grocery store.
When you have the bags on, put your feet in your shoes, pull your pant legs down and head out for your walk.
How to Keep your Body Warm and Dry • Inexpensively
We are going to use the same principle as we did with your feet but this time you will need a larger plastic bag. A small garbage bag will do fine. You will need to make a few cuts in the bag (as shown in the video) so that you can fit your head and arms through the bag and slip it over your body.
Once you have the bag in place, pull your coat on, tuck in anything you do not want sticking out and off you go.
Keep Walking for Osteoporosis • Join a Nordic Walking Group
What motivated me to prepare this video blog? I run several Nordic Walking groups in Ottawa. The weather was quite wet and cool last week when I arrived at the regular meeting place for one of my Nordic Walking groups. Unfortunately, only a few of the regular walkers appeared because of the weather. With the right supplies (and intent) we still could have gotten out for our regular walk. I will be prepared the next time!
Is Walking Good for Osteoporosis • Conclusion
In this post we answered the question: is walking good for osteoporosis? We learned that walking for osteoporosis can reduce hip fracture risk as well as deliver other significant health benefits. I gave several recommendations on how to improve your walking for osteoporosis and covered some tips to make your walking experience during inclement weather better.
So, is walking good for osteoporosis? I say, yes it is!
Is Walking Good for Osteoporosis • References
- Kohrt, W.M. Exercise and the Preservation of Bone Health with Aging, ASBMR 2011
- Martyn-StJames M, Carroll S. Meta-analysis of walking for preservation of bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. Bone. 2008 Sep 43(3):521-31