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My simple 2016 Exercise Action Plan for Better Bones

By Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD

If exercise is on your list of New Year’s resolutions — congratulations!  We know consistent exercise builds bone density and strength, which reduces fracture risk.  But we also know that being consistent at exercise can be challenging, especially when there are so many options and so little free time!

That’s why an “Exercise Action Plan” (EAP) is so helpful. A set plan boosts commitment and focus by giving you clear, concrete goals of where you want to go — and let me remind you to celebrate when you get there! To help you create your own plan, here are my Basic Better Bones, Better Body Exercise Guidelines, as well as my own 2016 EAP.

What kinds of exercise build Better Bones?

1.    Walking or other aerobic exercise at least 30 minutes each day. Aerobic capacity is directly correlated with bone density and overall health. Any aerobic activity is fine. You may not realize that walking a mile in 15 minutes is aerobic.


  • When there is no seasonal sport or outdoor work to be had, I walk. Often I use my weighted vest, stopping a few times to hop a bit. With a weight vest I build more strength, balance, and bone density with less time spent exercising. (See study references below.)
  • My goal is 10,000 steps a day and I reinforce this nightly by texting a friend who shares the same walking goal. I only make my 10,000 steps occasionally, but I’m OK with that.
  • Walk your dog twice a day, even if you don’t have one! Dance, hop, skip — all kinds of lower body impact activities can be aerobic and all fortify the hip.

2.    Strength training, at least 30 minutes every other day.  Any exercise that builds muscle builds bone. Even gentle, mindful exercises like yoga, tai chi, or Pilates strengthen muscle and bone.


  • Personally, as a “time miser,” I like to use my whole body vibration machine 10 to 15 minutes a day (equivalent to more than 30 minutes in the gym), 3 times a week.
  • On alternate days I love to make time for 25 minutes of “Classical Stretch,” a video workout by Miranda Esmonde White, as seen on PBS for 17 years now. I gain strength, flexibility, and balance from this gentle, yet serious, workout.
  • I always try to include the simple back-extensor exercise proven by Mayo Clinic to build spinal bone and greatly reduce spinal fractures (even in those who have already had a spinal fracture).


3.    Group exercise, at least once a week. There’s both fun and power in numbers. When we make exercise a social event, it’s often reinforced and more enjoyable. And, anything that makes us feel happier builds bone!

My EAP: I’ll be taking a yoga class, joining a gym workout, playing a friendly game of tennis, or walking with friends,

Take a moment to sit down, take a few deep breaths, and design your own 2016 EAP. I would love to hear about your plan.

Cussler, E. C., S. B. Going, L. B. Houtkooper, V. A. Stanford, R. M. Blew, H. G. Flint-Wagner, L. L. Metcalfe, J. E. Choi, and T. G. Lohman. 2005. Exercise frequency and calcium intake predict 4-year bone changes in postmenopausal women. Osteoporosis International 16(12):2129–2141.

Greendale, G. A., S. H. Hirsch, and T. J. Hahn. 1993. The effect of a weighted vest on perceived health status and bone density in older persons. Quality of Life Research 2(2):141–152.

Jessup, J. V., C. Horne, R. K. Vishen, and D. Wheeler. 2003. Effects of exercise on bone density, balance, and self-efficacy in older women. Biological Research for Nursing 4(3):171–180.

Marques, E. A., J. Mota, and J. Carvalho. 2012. Exercise effects on bone mineral density in older adults: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Age 34(6):1493–1515.

Roghani, T., G. Torkaman, S. Movasseghe, M. Hedayati, B. Goosheh, and N. Bayat. 2013. Effects of short-term aerobic exercise with and without external loading on bone metabolism and balance in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. Rheumatology International 33(2):291–298.

Snow, C. M., J. M. Shaw, K. M. Winters, and K. A. Witzke. 2000. Long-term exercise using weighted vests prevents hip bone loss in postmenopausal women. The Journals of Gerontology Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences 55(9):M489–M491.



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We created the Better Bones blog as our forum to express opinions and educate the public about natural means of supporting and improving bone health and overall wellness. As part of this forum, we sometimes discuss medical issues and medications, and their effects on bone health in general. However, we cannot advise readers about specific medical issues in this forum. If you wish to obtain advice from Susan E. Brown, PhD, about your specific bone health and nutritional concerns, please visit our Consultations page. Other specific medical questions should be referred to your healthcare provider.


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