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Yoga for strong bones

Get balanced – research suggests yoga can help to prevent, slow and even reverse osteoporosis.

Many of us know firsthand how rejuvenating yoga can be for the mind and body, helping us to unwind, achieve mindfulness, stretch out and tone up. But there’s another excellent reason to incorporate yoga into your regular exercise regime – research shows it can help keep your bones strong and healthy.

Osteoporosis – a condition characterised by weak, thinning bones that can lead to serious fractures – or its precursor, osteopenia, affect two in three Australians over the age of 50, and it is predicted that by 2022, 6.2 million Australians will be affected. Physical activity, calcium and vitamin D are all recommended for preventing and slowing the development of brittle bones.

What makes yoga ideal for bone health

One of the many benefits of exercise is that it helps strengthen your bones, and there are three key reasons why yoga makes an excellent choice:

  • It’s weight-bearing. A weight bearing exercise means you hold the weight of your body upright against gravity, putting mild stress on the bones that encourages them to strengthen. Standing and balancing poses in yoga are all weight bearing, lengthening the muscles and helping the bones
  • It’s isometric. This kind of activity is done in a static position, forcing you to use the strength of the muscle to contract over the bone. This makes the bones stronger and thicker.
  • It’s low impact . Unlike other weight-bearing exercises like running, yoga is gentle on the cartilage and joints. Being low impact also makes it suitable for any age or ability level.

The benefits of yoga for bone health have held up in scientific research. Dr Loren Fishman conducted a two-year pilot study examining the relationship between yoga and osteoporosis and osteopenia, and found that daily practice was able to improve the condition. By practising just 10 minutes of yoga daily, participants with osteopenia (the precursor to osteoporosis) built their bone density back up into the normal range, while several participants with osteoporosis improved enough to be re-classified as having the milder osteopenia.

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