People with osteoporosis should carry out appropriate exercise to ensure that they keep their bones as strong as possible. There are various ways a person can use weights when walking that may help with osteoporosis.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, around 10 million people in the United States have osteoporosis, and 44 million have low bone density, meaning they are at risk of developing the condition.
People with osteoporosis can easily fracture their bones. For those with severe bone density loss, fractures can result from minor falls or even bumping into furniture.
It is important for people with osteoporosis to do things to reduce bone loss. Weight-bearing and resistance exercises are the best types of workouts, as they can help reduce the rate a person loses bone mass and improve bone strength.
There is no evidence that walking on its own improves bone mass, but there is some evidence that walking while wearing weights may help.
Read on to find out if walking with weights can help osteoporosis and how to go about it.
Resistance training helps muscles become stronger, and the same is true of bones.
Bone is living tissue, and exercise can strengthen it. When muscles pull on the bones, those bones respond by renewing themselves and therefore becoming stronger.
According to the National Institutes of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center, the best exercises for building strong bones are weight-bearing and resistance exercises.
To strengthen both muscles and bone, there needs to be some resistance.
Some methods of providing resistance during exercise include:
- resistance bands
- body weight exercises or calisthenics, such as push-ups and pull-ups
- weight machines
- free weights, such as dumbbells and kettlebells
Walking with weights involves adding resistance when a person walks.
Walking with weights does not mean just going for a walk while holding a set of weights.
There are specific pieces of equipment a person can purchase to enable them to add weights to their walking routine.
Weighted vests, for example, are a popular resistance-training tool. Many weighted vests contain compartments for removable weights. A person can replace these with heavier or lighter weights, depending on their requirements. Some weighted vests have a fixed weight sewn into the vest.
Alternatively, a person may wish to use ankle or wrist weights. These weights attach to the ankles or wrists and have the same effect as a vest.
They create more resistance, meaning that a person’s body has to work harder to perform the same movements.
Initially, a person should walk while wearing the vest without any weights if possible.
This way, they can adapt to how it feels and note if it causes any discomfort.
The vest should be snug enough that the weights do not move but loose enough that the individual has complete mobility when walking briskly.
When the person is satisfied that they can walk comfortably without pain, they can add weights.
A person should begin with the lowest amount of weight possible and slowly add more as they become accustomed to walking with the weights.
How often someone uses their weighted vest or ankle or wrist weights depends on their exercise schedule. The frequency also depends on their current cardiovascular fitness and strength level. A person can try adding the weighted vest into a fitness regime a couple of times a week and progress from there.
People can use weights in other ways for osteoporosis as well as walking with weights.
Dumbbells are a versatile piece of equipment that people can use in weight training for osteoporosis. People should choose lightweight dumbbells before slowly building up to heavier ones. Many dumbbell ranges start at 1 pound (lb), and they may find they can work up to using 5-lb dumbbells.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend participating in muscle-strengthening exercises at least
As well as dumbbells, people can use barbells, kettlebells, or resistance bands. They can even use items around the home, such as unopened cans of food or heavy milk cartons, to perform resistance training exercises and build strength.
Below are some examples of resistance exercises a person can perform at home or a gym.
To perform bicep curls:
- Sit in a chair or stand with a dumbbell in each hand, feet shoulder-width apart, palms facing the thighs.
- Rotate the forearms so that the palms are toward the shoulders and slowly lift the weights as high as possible until the biceps completely contract, on a count of two.
- Hold, then slowly lower the weights back down toward the thighs to the starting position while counting to four.
- Repeat 8–12 times for one set before resting for 1–2 minutes, then complete an additional set.
To perform shoulder lifts:
- Sit in a chair or stand with a dumbbell in each hand, feet shoulder-width apart, arms down, and hands at the sides.
- Slowly raise the arms out straight ahead, without locking the elbows. Keep the shoulders down, making sure not to shrug them upward.
- Lift the dumbbells to shoulder level or as high as possible below shoulder level.
- Slowly lower back down.
- Repeat 8–12 times for one set. Rest for 1 minute, then complete an additional set.
People may want to use elastic resistance bands to help build strength.
Alternatively, they may wish to use weight machines, such as those at a gym.
People should always be careful when doing any form of exercise to make sure it is right for them. Consider speaking to healthcare and fitness professionals before starting a new workout regime.
Some types of exercise, such as running, jump rope, and climbing, are known as high impact exercises.
Anyone with osteoporosis should avoid high impact exercises in order to prevent overloading the bone with too much stress. High impact exercises may also increase a person’s risk of falling, which can cause fractures.
Although there is nothing a person can do to reverse osteoporosis, there are many exercises that can start to slow down the bone density loss associated with osteoporosis.
Regular walking with weights can improve a person’s strength and reduce their risk of falls and fractures.
Walking while wearing a weighted vest can be beneficial for people with osteoporosis. An individual should start gradually, slowly increasing the weight to a comfortable level.
More research is necessary to determine the optimum weight that a person should wear while walking to improve bone health.
Walking with weights can improve overall health, increase bone strength, and reduce the risk of fractures.
There are different ways to walk with weights, and there is a range of equipment options.
People should always speak to a healthcare professional before starting a new workout routine.