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Safe Exercise for Strong Bones

Weight-bearing exercise is one of the three primary pillars of bone health along with a calcium-rich diet and vitamin D. Walking is a good option for weight-bearing exercise that offers benefits such as improved muscle strength and balance as well as decreased rate of bone loss.

Maybe you already walk for exercise, but have you ever walked 20 miles in one day? If so, have you walked 20 miles for three days in a row? That’s the grueling challenge that participants face in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day series.

Getting ready for the 3-Day series, which brings together thousands of participants in seven cities to raise funds and awareness in the fight against breast cancer, will require not only improving how you walk but also incorporating other exercises beyond walking. Let’s talk about how you can prepare to meet the challenge and walk the walk for 60 miles at your 3-Day event.

What We Know

Walking is considered a low-impact type of weight-bearing exercise, but to train for the 3-Day, you’ll also want to practice high-impact activities. Examples include running, jumping rope and resistance training (weight lifting and calisthenics). These exercises help bones become stronger.

Putting a load on your bones via weight-bearing exercise triggers a response that stimulates the bone cells to build more bone, leading to increased bone strength. Higher-impact activities such as running and jumping provide the necessary load.

Bicycling and swimming are low-impact activities that provide cardiovascular benefits. Because they partially “unload” the bones, they are not the best for building bone strength.

What You Can Do

Getting the most out of your walk involves increasing your endurance and strength to complete the event. Walking requires coordinated effort from your hips down to your knees, ankles and feet. You’ll want to train each of these parts individually for optimal performance.

Besides walking, incorporating other exercises will improve your overall performance. Cross-training will build muscle strength and cardiovascular endurance while helping protect against overuse injuries. Any activity that increases your heart rate and utilizes different muscles from walking qualifies as cross-training: bicycling, elliptical, swimming, inline skating, Pilates, yoga and dance are all examples. The key here is duration of activity, not intensity or type.

How You Can Be Sure

As you practice walking, be sure to maintain proper body alignment and posture. One way to support your walk is by having a strong core (abdominal and back muscles).

Listen to your body: Too much training too soon can lead to injuries that can derail your training program. Monitoring your loading and not increasing excessively is key to training and avoiding injury.

Whatever exercise you’re working on, start a level that is right for you, and then work up from there. If you’re walking, increase your pace. If you’re running, consider adding higher-impact activities.

You can find more helpful resource at americanbonehealth.org. We are here to help you during your training and on every step along your 60-mile journey. Be strong, and be safe!

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