To check for bone mineral density the standard test is a DEXA scan, or one can have a peripheral quantitative computed tomography test, looking at bone quality.
Strength of bone is a combination of both density and quality of the structural matrix, and exercise impacts the quality of bone more than just the density. Trying to avoid the diagnosis of Osteoporosis which is low bone density as this increases the risk of bone fractures.
Exercise does matter for long-term bone health and even if it changes by 1% every year over time this will obviously have an overall long term effect, which we should consider over the lifetime of your bones. You may reach peak bone mass between the ages of 25 and 30. Women usually have accelerated bone loss after reaching menopause. Thus maintaining bone or gaining bone at a rate of 1% is definitely significant.
Pharmaceutical support is an option and there are very strong bone builders available. For some people these drugs are the answer taken whilst exercising improves bone strength.
Not all exercise provides an equal effect. Short distance runners outdo long distance runners who are better off than cyclists. Lifting weights produces better bones than people that do lighter endurance lifting. You can not suddenly change your normal exercise regime to enhance your bone density without careful staging and professional advice because injury will reverse all your advances. Subtle changes in the muscles need to occur first to support your newly focussed exercise regime.
The modifications relate to flexibility, strength, cardiovascular health, endurance or fitness level and your fracture risk. The average 60-year-old who hasn’t exercised in a year faces different challenges to the 50-year-old who’s been body building for many years. People also progress at different rates and age is not always a predictor.
You need to exercise to improve your bone health, but the muscles, nerve connections, joints and viscera can all function better if you are doing a regular amount of exercise each week. For some this could be walking half an hour each day and for others it could be dancing, aerobics, Pilates or swimming 3-4 times a week.
It is better to do something you enjoy as you will probably continue to do it and having variation in your program can work more areas of the body.
If you know you have a fracture risk then the exercise can help improve your bone density but also help you feel more stable and balanced, reducing your risk of falls.
If this information has raised any questions for you, please contact me and ask for help. I am happy to assist if I can.
Always check with a professional before taking medicine, or supplements and seek advice before making changes to your exercise schedule.