Is walking a weight-bearing exercise

With a few changes in your regular walking routine, you can keep muscle and bone loss in check as you get older. Learn more about if walking is a weight-bearing exercise or not.

If walking is the main form of exercise, listen. Walking alone does not provide much protection against fractures and bone loss as you get older. With a few adjustments to your walking routine, you can make your brisk walks an aerobic workout that strengthens your muscle and bone health.

Use it or lose it

From around the age of 30, muscle strength and bone mineral density naturally begin to decline. Untempered, these changes increase the risk of falls, fractures, and conditions such as osteoporosis. Regular exercise slows down or stops the loss of muscles and bones. And the correct type of exercise can even make the body build new muscles and bones.

Different physical activities benefit muscles and bones in different ways:

For an aerobic workout to benefit your legs, it must be weight-bearing, which means that you are on your feet and moving your body towards gravity. Walking is such a weight-bearing activity. The higher the impact (think jogging and skipping rope), the greater the benefit to your legs.

Muscle-strengthening activities include weightlifting, resistance bands, and bodyweight exercises such as pushups, lunges, and squats. These activities use resistance to make the muscles work harder than they usually do – making them stronger. Bonus? Muscle-strengthening exercises also provide some bone-building benefits.

Most people tend to walk at the same pace for about the same time. To build new muscle and bone cells, you need to increase the “load” on your body.

After warming up, try these strategies:

  • Get up to speed. Fast walking and jogging are more beneficial for bone health than walking at an easy or moderate pace. Start by increasing your pace or jogging for a short while during the walk. Walk for two or three minutes at an average speed, and then walk fast for one minute. Repeat until your walking time is out.
  • Walk in the hills or stairs. Walking uphills and stairs challenge your body to carry your weight in new ways, providing additional benefits to muscles and bones. Add some stairs or hills to your route, and feel free to increase the pace. Try to go fast up a hill, then slow down and focus on using your muscles to control the descent or vice versa.
  • Add bodyweight exercises or jumps. Are you getting across a crossroads or parking along your hiking trail? Stop and do a set of lunges, squats, or pushups. If high-performance activities are suitable for your body, consider including sets of squats, jumps, or static jumps (to mimic skipping ropes but without ropes).
  • Experts recommend that the elderly follow an exercise program that includes weight-bearing aerobic activity, muscle-strengthening activities, and balance training, such as yoga, tai chi, or pilates. With a few adjustments to your walking routine, you are on your way to increasing your chances of keeping fractures and bone loss in check.

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