Being Good to Our Bones
Like our muscles, our skeletal system can reap significant rewards through weight-bearing exercise. It increases bone density, which means it can delay the onset and/or the progression of osteoporosis.
The truth is powerful muscles help support our body's skeletal framework. But exercise also makes the framework itself more stout by replenishing the minerals that make bones strong. According to research, significantly increased bone mineral density occurred in post-menopausal women who walked just 1 mile, three times per week [source: Etherington].
Plus, having stronger bones translates into reducing the risk of fractures. Hip and pelvic fractures are among the leading injuries among retirees from falls, and the increased density derived from exercise gives our bones a better chance to survive a fall unscathed.
Weight-bearing exercises, done within reason, can also help improve the health of our spine, keeping our bodies in proper alignment. However, "high impact" weight-bearing exercise such as running and jogging, especially for heavier baby boomers, can put undue stress on bones, particularly the lower spine and legs. Exercise caution [source: Mayo Clinic].
Conversely, walkers always have at least one foot on the ground, and each step only carries their own body weight in terms of force. Even race walkers won't strike the ground with more force than one-and-a-half times their body weight (compared to three to four times for runners).
"That's why you don't hear about walkers having stress fractures or knee problems," says Fenton. "Walking very briskly can be a great workout. In fact, for many people, it's the best workout because it is low impact, but it's weight-bearing. That helps you maintain bone density."
Do weight-bearing workouts also promote healthy internal organs? You bet.