Here's another video demonstration of rowing, but this one uses a rowing machine that you can find in a gym like XSport.
A friend reminded me this week about indoor rowing as a low-impact alternative to running. I had forgotten about rowing! It is a great whole-body workout, as I experienced a couple of years ago at a different gym. Of course, I wanted to know what effect rowing might have on bone density. Even though rowing does not involve impact, as running and jumping do, studies have shown that it can lead to significant increases in bone density in the lower lumbar spine. That's great news! Building up the spine seems to be one of the most difficult challenges, as few exercises target it safely. Don't have a rowing machine? Here's how to make your own. Or if you happen to have a kayak or row boat, all the better. Happy rowing!
Here's an interesting blog post from Ultimate ChiroCare about the types of sports and activities that are most helpful for strengthening bones during our peak bone-building years: late teens and early 20s.
"Building Bone Tissue in Children: Preventing Osteoporosis."
In short, make sure your kids engage in some weight bearing exercise, such as running, basketball, tennis or soccer. Swimming and bicycling need to be balanced with weight bearing activities.
Here's an article that a friend passed along to me by a physician, Dr. Fuhrman, about nutritional approaches to protecting our bones. The article also lists calcium content of various foods, recommends weight bearing exercise (literally, by wearing a weighted vest), and lists some of the side effects of bisphosphonate drugs, such as Fosamax and Boniva.
About 10 years ago I remember talking with a new doctor and of course I asked about how to prevent osteoporosis. He told me that practicing Tai Chi and Qi Gong just 10 minutes a day can reduce the rate of fractures as much or more than taking a bisphosphonate drug such as Fosamax. (And without any of the negative side effects.) He even recommended a Tai Chi video, Tai Chi for Beginners with Dr. Paul Lam, which I bought and still have. You can order an updated version on Amazon.com for $24.95. The exercises are very easy to follow.
I must admit, I prefer more active, energetic exercises, so I sometimes incorporate a few minutes of Tai Chi into more active yoga or use it as a way to relax at the end of a busy day.
How does Tai Chi work to strength bones and prevent fractures? There are many research studies online that show a link between practicing Tai Chi and higher bone density, but researchers do not yet know why. In the Resources section, I have listed a few of the studies I found online that show a positive link between Tai Chi and bone density. Even if we don't know exactly why it works, it's easy to include as one more healthy activity for all ages. Do you have a success story with Tai Chi or other exercises?
All you need for this one is a flight of stairs and a set of dumbbells!
I asked my chiropractor what exercises he would recommend that I do to build my overall strength and bone density (in addition to the biodensity machine that I work with once/week). His suggestion: stair climbing - adding weights as I practice and focusing on engaging the core muscles.
It only takes a few minutes to get your heart rate up and it's almost as demanding as running. You can do bicep curls with the weights while you ascend the stairs, then just hold them at your sides while you go down.
Even if you only have 10 minutes to exercise, this one will make you feel like you have had a workout. And there's no cost, no need to drive anywhere, and if you play music, the time passes quickly.
Finish up with a few stretches, like the leg swings as shown here:
For the video on the lower left, to skip the explanation and go right to the exercise, fast forward to 3 minutes.
Today was my weekly workout at our local BStrong4LIfe center at Ultimate ChiroCare. Progress has been steady after a brief period of correcting my form. You can see that in the leg press, the Biodensity machine makes it possible for me to press more than 10 times my body weight for 5 seconds. Over time, this has proven to increase bone density for others and I'm confident that the same will be true for me.
Pictured here is a Biodensity machine at the office of Dr. Perry Cammisa, a chiropractor in Woodridge, IL and co-founder of B Strong 4 Life.
After trying many forms of exercise to build my own bone density and continuing to see my DEXA scores trend down, I attended an informational seminar about B Strong 4 Life a few months ago. The principle is that using the Biodensity machine, a person can exert force many times greater than their body weight without stressing their joints. In fact, after about 10 weeks of participating in the program, I already have pushed more than 8 times my body weight in the leg press exercise. There's no way that I could do that with free weights or traditional machines at a gym. I am hopeful that continuing this program will lead to significant gains in bone density for me. That would be exciting! Meanwhile, one of my friends who also participates in the program said that her husband reversed his osteoporosis with this treatment. His testimonial is on video.