Winter sports and exercise to help bone health

It may be tempting to spend much of winter curled up with a blanket on the couch but for healthy bones, regular exercise is vitally important. It plays a role in building and maintaining bone density in young and mid‐adulthood, and also helps reduce bone loss later in life.1

Regular exercise also helps maintain muscle strength, coordination and balance. This in turn helps to prevent falls and related fractures in older adults.2 There are many different types of exercise and all of them offer health benefits. Some exercises however are better than others for bone health, specifically weight bearing and strength‐training activities.

Weight‐bearing sports and exercise

Weight bearing exercise describes any activity that you do on your feet and that works your bones and muscles against gravity. These activities place added stress on bones, which forces them to work harder, build more cells and become denser.3 Many people struggle to fit in the recommended level of exercise through the cooler months, but there are winter‐friendly activities you could include in your routine such as:

  • Indoors ‐ When it really is too cold to head outdoors, consider indoor weight‐bearing exercise such as aerobics, yoga or a dance class. Playing a team sport such as indoor netball, squash, basketball, futsal or volleyball may also help keep you motivated and support your bones through winter.
  • Outdoors – Rug up in layers and head out for a brisk walk or jog, or warm up with touch football or a game of golf with friends. This will also allow you to get a healthy dose of vitamin D, which is also essential for optimum bone health.

Strength‐training exercise

In addition to strength training increasing muscle strength, it also has bone‐building capacity.3 It includes using free weights, weight machines or lifting your own body weight such as with push‐ups. These activities are easy to incorporate through winter by joining a gym or carrying them out in the comfort of your lounge room. For better bone‐building results, these types of exercises need to become more challenging over time. This can be achieved by gradually increasing the amount of weight used.1