Unless you’re an astronaut, you don’t experience the effects of spaceflight osteopenia caused by weightlessness. Long-term space flights can result in an alarming 20 percent loss of bone. To counteract the debilitating effects of their extraterrestrial lifestyle, astronauts engage in at least 15 hours a week of high-impact exercise. Although you have the benefit of gravity on your side, additional measures are necessary to prevent and reverse bone loss here on the ground.
Because your spine is the core of your skeletal structure, the solidity of your vertebrae supports your body’s healthy function. Extreme thinning of these bones can result in compression fractures that are caused by simple everyday activities like opening a window or even sneezing. Including safe high-impact exercises in your routine stresses your bones enough to improve bone density and hopefully avoid damage.
High-impact exercise is when both feet leave the ground at the same time, even for a split second. With that in mind, some safe high-impact exercises to improve your bone density include brisk walking, defined as a pace of 100 steps per minute. Not only does brisk walking improve your bone density, but it also likely elevates your mood and benefits your balance.
What to keep in mind when brisk walking:
- Walk a little initially, building up your time.
- Warm up and cool down with a slower pace.
- Stay hydrated; carry a bottle of water with you.
- Choose a softer surface like grass to walk on, if possible.
Stair climbing forces your body to resist gravity and rise vertically. This pattern of motion produces a significant body weight load to improve bone density. For the most effective techniques for high-impact stair climbing:
- Choose a long wide staircase to climb.
- Use your larger leg muscles and set your feet firmly on each step.
- Push off the step with your heels, reducing stress to your knees.
- Walk — don’t run — when returning down the stairs.
Skipping rope provides bones with dynamic impact, and it’s easily accomplished in the comfort of your home. Skipping rope for as little as 100 times a day can improve bone density. Tips to get the most out of your rope jumping routine include:
- Use a digital rope to eliminate a tripping hazard.
- Bounce on the balls of your feet.
- Don’t jump too high.
- Keep a steady rhythm and relax into it.
Dancing the Night Away
Dancing is perhaps the most fun of all safe high-impact exercises. It appeals to all age groups and abilities and can be practiced to a wide variety of music. You must, however, keep in mind spine-strengthening techniques while kicking up your heels, such as:
- Stand tall keeping an erect posture.
- Find a softer surface to dance on like a wooden floor.
- Play music that you can’t resist moving to.
- Dance like nobody’s watching and express yourself with your body.
Safe high-impact exercise can make a tremendous difference in the quality of your life and increase your resistance to injury. To improve bone density like a real astronaut, talk to your spine physicians at the Southeastern Spine Institute about how to incorporate one or more of these exercises into your treatment plan to improve bone density.