Lunges, squats and other medium-impact exercises keep bones strong.

Best Weight-Bearing Exercises to Build Bone Health

Maintaining good bone density is one of the best ways to protect yourself from osteoporosis and other physical hazards of aging, such as falling. When you’re young, your goal is to build bone strength, while later in life you’ll work on keeping the strength you have.

One of the best ways to keep bones strong is to engage in regular, weight-bearing exercise. The standard recommendation calls for exercises with a degree of impact, but that doesn’t mean you have to do something jarring like running, says Dr. Elizabeth Dawes Kim, MD, adult and geriatric psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco. “It can be anything where you’re moving against gravity, such as climbing stairs,” she says.

Examples of good bone-building exercises including  squats, shoulder presses, deadlifts, lunges, push ups, and pull ups. “Yoga moves like downward dog are also great,” she says.

When doing squats, it’s fine to keep it simple. “If you can sit down on a chair and stand back up, that’s a starting squat,” she says. “Work up to doing 30 of those without stopping, and you’ve got a good bone builder.”

Form is important for squats, Dawes Kim says. “You want your knees to be parallel, your back straight up and down, and stick your butt out,” she says. “Wall sits are another great place to start, you build strength in your quadriceps that way.” However, it’s important to be guided by personal comfort. “For me, those are sometimes hard, they put a weird pressure on my knees. You have to listen to your body.”‘

Many of these exercises can be done at home or even in the office, using your own body weight for resistance, she says. “A lot of people think strength training means you have to go to the gym and use all these machines, but for a lot of people just starting with your own body weight is going to be fine.”

Exercising at home is more pleasant for many people becuase they can watch TV or otherwise entertain themselves, and save the time getting back and forth to the gym. “We want people to enjoy exercising and find it fun, and for it to be convenient enough that they can exerise regularly, she says. “You don’t want to exersise so much that you’re so sore, or you can’t go up and down stairs, because then you want won’t want to keep exercising.”

Lunges are perfect examples of medium-impact exercises that you can do anywhere. But if that’s still not convenient, you can get many of the same benefits climbing the stairs. “Do you want to be able to climb up and down a ladder, or move your couch around?” Dawes Kim asks. “Those are are pushing moves, and how can you have the strength to do that safely if you don’t practice?

Then there’s the deadlift, which you can do pretty much anytime there’s something to be carried or moved, Dawes Kim says.. “You can practice deadlifting with a bag filled with groceries. Notice how do you bend down, and make sure to grab from the floor and pick up to the waist. I call it the Gorilla grab. These are  functional exercises because we all deadlift everyday.”

Eating right is the other part of your bone-building plan. Make sure to get plenty of these vitamins, minerals and other nutrients necessary for bone health.

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.