May is NATIONAL OSTEOPOROSIS MONTH -- the perfect time to celebrate your bones, and think about simple ways to toughen them up, keep them strong, and prevent osteoporosis, a common disease that can be debilitating, even fatal.
Fact: 54 million Americans have low bone density or osteoporosis, causing over two million broken bones every year. About half of all women over the age of 50 will break a bone because of poor bone health, and up to one in four men.
To help celebrate our bones, the National Osteoporosis Foundation has teamed up with Huff/Post50 to bring you the latest science-backed, holistic information to prevent bone loss with recommended healthy habits you can easily incorporate into your daily life.
As the NOF Bone Health Ambassador, each week I'll share the most effective tips on working out, eating well, and everything else you need to know to keep bones strong, and stop fractures from happening to you.
To kick off the month-long celebration, I'll start by sharing the best strength-training exercises you can do anywhere, any time, and without equipment! Okay . . . grab your sneakers and let's go!
Running: You might think that pounding the pavement is bad for your post-50 bones, but in fact, running is one of the best things you can do to build bone mass in your lower body. Consider sprinting as hard as you can for 30 seconds, then ease into a slower jog for 30. Go back and forth between the two for 20 minutes or so for a super-effective cardio and bone-building workout.
Jumping Jacks: Want to get your heart going and build strength below the belt? Do 50 (or more) jumping jacks every day. And while you're in the jumping mood, just . . . jump! Really! Start in the squat position, and jump up and down like that around 20 times for a powerful lower body workout.
Squats: I was first introduced to the correct way of doing squats by fitness guru David Kirsch, who told me that "the key to a successful squat is to stick your butt out as far as you can," keeping the pressure off your knees. Aim for 20 squats. Check out the video below to see how to do them right to make them really work.
Push-Ups: The push-up is the gold standard exercise that everyone should do every single day. If you haven't done them in years (or ever), you may need to start with the modified push-up (on your knees). Do as many as you can do, but build up to 20. Want an extra challenge? Do them the Slo-Mo way: count to eight as you lower down, hold for eight, and count to eight as you go back up.
Planks: The plank is my #1 favorite exercise of all time because it strengthens and tones your entire body at the same time. Here's how you do it: Get into the 'up' position of a push-up, make your body taught, tight and straight like a plank of wood, and hold the pose for 60 seconds. You may need to build up to it, like most of us mortals.
Susan Randall, RN, MSN, FNP-BC, Senior Director, Science and Education of the National Osteoporosis Foundation has this to say about the importance of exercise as part of any plan to prevent osteoporosis:
"Exercise is a critically important part of osteoporosis treatment, along with good nutrition, avoiding tobacco and too much alcohol and taking medication when necessary. Before starting or ramping up an exercise program you should first check with your healthcare provider to see if there are any health concerns."
Please visit NOF.org for more information about how you can prevent osteoporosis for life. In the meantime, check out this short video that will show you how to properly do some of the exercises listed above: