Weight-bearing exercises for strong bones

Q&a

December 30, 2005|By GAILOR LARGE | GAILOR LARGE,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Is the elliptical trainer considered a weight-bearing exercise? Will it help keep my bones strong, or do I need something with more impact, like the treadmill?

It's a partial weight-bearing exercise, explains Michael Kelly, director of operations at LifeBridge Health & Fitness. "Weight-bearing exercises, such as weight lifting, walking and jogging are more conducive to bone maintenance and growth than partial and non-weight-bearing exercise such as biking, swimming and the elliptical [machine]," he says.

However, the elliptical trainer definitely has its advantages. For one, you don't have the potentially damaging impact of weight-bearing exercise.

"Due to the fall-away, pedaling motion, it will be less damaging to your joints," he explains. Also, says Kelly, it isn't only weight-bearing exercise that keeps your bones strong. "The greater the muscular force, the more tension on the bone and the greater the effect on bone maintenance and growth," he explains.

In other words, any exercise that works the leg muscles is contributing to bone strength. If your body is healthy, a combination (weight-bearing and partial or non-weight-bearing exercise) is your best bet.

What are the iron balls with handles I've seen people swinging around at the gym? It looks like a great workout, but is it dangerous because they're so heavy?

The trendy kettlebell is so simple: an iron ball with a handle. And you thought only strip aerobics and gold track shoes got the spotlight. Wish you'd thought of this gizmo first?

Well, it turns out the kettlebell is not as new as it seems. Soviet athletes used it as a training tool for decades.

Like dumbbells, kettlebells come in a wide poundage range. Devotees feel it's a more functional exercise than traditional, isolated weight lifting. While kettlebell training does incorporate swinging movements, they are controlled to minimize pulled muscles and other injuries. For more information, call your local gym or visit ironcorelajolla.com.

This is my last week handling the Fitness Q&A column. I've had a great time and want to thank everyone for their contributions. Mary Beth Regan will be taking over, so keep the questions coming.

Do you have a fitness question? You can submit questions via e-mail to fitness@baltsun.com, or online at baltimoresun.com/healthscience, or in writing to The Sun, Fitness Q&A, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278.

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