Healthy Living: Preparing Your Mind, Body and Bones for the 3-Day

Thanks to the support of Amgen and working in partnership with American Bone Health, we are excited to provide you with a special series of emails, blogs and additional resources that will help prepare you for this life-changing event, as well as year-round health. To catch up on all of the blogs and emails about Healthy Living, click here.

Why You Should Add Load To Your Workout

Special Guest Contributor: Wendy Kohrt, PhD

We often hear that weight-bearing activity is critical for bone health, but many people don’t know what that means or how to achieve it. If you watch children play, they’ve got it right! Running, jumping and cartwheeling are the kinds of activities that help them build their bones.

Weight-bearing, or weight-loading, activities stimulate bone building by triggering the cells to take in more calcium and other minerals and, ultimately, to increase bone mineral density. In contrast, “unloading” the bones — prolonged bed rest, for example — result in loss of bone mineral density. While normal daily activities are sufficient in preventing the harmful effects of unloading, significant “loading” is still needed to increase bone density.

Researchers measure load in multiples of body weight. For example, when we stand, the gravitational load on our bones equals our body weight. Walking generates loading forces that are 1- to 2- times body weight. Running or jogging adds even more load — say 3 times body weight. To improve bone mineral density, you need to consider higher impact activities that add 4+ times body weight, like jumping or strength training.

Always start with loading activities that are right for you. As you train to walk in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day, work to increase your walking stride. If you are running, consider adding higher-impact activities. Weight or resistance training is beneficial to muscles and with enough load, it can stimulate bone building as well. Avoid excessive loading to prevent injury.

If you have low bone density or osteoporosis, talk with a professional who has been trained to work with individuals at risk for fractures on any activity that will add load to your bones. Use proper form and body mechanics to protect your spine.

The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week. For bone health, the guidelines advise strength training for all major muscle groups at least two times a week. Doing many repetitions with light weights is not the way to go. To add enough load on the bones, the muscle you are working should fatigue within eight to ten repetitions or fewer.

Be safe and smart with your training and remember, loading up your workouts will keep your bones going strong for the 3-Day and beyond!

Dr. Wendy Kohrt received her Ph.D. in Exercise Science from Arizona State University and established the research group Investigations in Metabolism, Aging, Gender, and Exercise at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. She is a national leader in aging research focused on the prevention of disease and the maintenance of functional independence.