Remember jumping rope and playing hop scotch as a kid? Well, it’s time to think about those activities again, because hopping and jumping are great bone builders. Studies show the bone benefits of these simple forms of exercise. Ten to 15 minutes of heel drops, hopping, or jumping three days a week helps to increase bone density and strength.
Depending on your current fitness level, you may feel comfortable starting with heel drops and working up to hopping or full-fledged power jumping.
For those who might have experienced fractures, have issues with their knees or muscles, or who may be more fragile for one reason or another, a good modification of hopping is the heel drop. Lift up on your toes and then drop, striking the heel to the ground. It can be a gentle drop or a strong one, depending on the vigor you apply.
This can be done two-legged or one-legged (the latter delivers much more impact). Hop up as much as you are comfortable, and then land on the ball of your foot with your knees slightly bent. Hopping has a milder impact than jumping, so it’s a great way to begin. You might do a few hops and rest a bit, then do more.
Jumping can provide high or moderate bone-building impact depending on how high you jump. Power jumping is a higher impact activity that involves jumping up as high as you can. The motion upward is greater if you swing your arms up above your head (much like the arm motion in Jumping Jack exercises). Like Jumping Jacks, you can land with your feet apart, or you can land with your feet together. Smaller jumps less powerful jumps are more comfortable for the less athletic, yet these also stimulate bone.
Some general guidelines for getting started:
- Exercise in a safe area. Avoid slippery surfaces or clutter, and always wear sneakers to protect your feet. Take a few minutes to warm up. You might do some calisthenics, brisk walking, jogging in place, yoga, work with weights, or the like.
- While we aim to work up to 100 repetitions a day, start with just as many as are comfortable for you. Breaking your sessions into two parts and working up to 50 repetitions at a time is probably more effective than one single hopping bout.
- Hopping and jumping, although simple exercises, are high-impact exercises that those with severe osteoporosis, a history of fracture, balance problems, or back, knee or ankle problems should do under guidance of their health practitioner or physical therapist.
- If you have any concerns about whether hopping is something you should do given your health status, please consult your healthcare provider before you start.
For more tips on strengthening your bones through movement, read my article on exercise and bone health.