Why You Need Yoga, Cardio, and Strength Training for Ultimate Bone Health

Want to ensure a healthy, pain-free yoga practice for years (and years) to come? Part two of our three-part plan for ultimate bone health is all about how to supplement your practice with cardio and strength training.
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Yoga is amazing, but it’s not enough if you want to give your bones the best fighting chance against loss and damage—for that, you’ll need to add some weight-bearing cardiovascular fitness to your routine (think jumping, running, walking, dancing, hiking, and aerobics). “It has to do with the impact of your feet on the ground and how that impact radiates up through your body,” says Simpson. “Bones are dynamic and alive. When you jog or jump, it puts pressure on the bone, which sends a message to the osteoblasts: ‘We need to get these bones stronger.’” That’s one reason astronauts lose an average of 1 to 2 percent of their bone mass per month while in outer space: No gravity equals no bone-building impact. Rubenstein Fazzio recommends adding three 30-minute sessions of high-impact cardio to your weekly workout routine, including brief bursts of vigorous effort. Running and aerobics are especially good, plus they’re heart-pumping moves, so you’ll enjoy the cardioprotective effects, too.

If 30 minutes is too much of a commitment, short spurts of jumping or jogging count, too. (Note: If you have osteoporosis, avoid jumping.) Research from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, showed that when women ages 25 to 50 jumped as high as possible 10 times, twice a day, for 16 weeks, their hip bone density increased by 0.5 percent on average. This may sound negligible, but the women who didn’t jump lost about 1.3 percent of their bone density on average during the same period. Study author Larry Tucker, PhD, recommends jumping as high as possible 10 to 20 times—resting for 30 seconds between jumps—twice a day, and spacing out the two sets by about eight hours to prevent your bones from becoming desensitized to the impact.

The final fitness key to bone fortification: strength training. Hoisting dumbbells or doing lunges or squats places a higher load on your skeleton, and bones respond by growing stronger. When choosing weights, don’t go too easy on yourself. “Pick a challenging weight that you can safely manage without strain, and do fewer repetitions,” advises Rubenstein Fazzio; that added stress is what sets bone-forming cells into action. Aim for two to three sets of 8 to 12 reps per body area, twice a week. To make it super simple, slip some of Rubenstein Fazzio’s favorite strength-training moves into your regular yoga practice (see “Pump up your practice”). 

See also Why You Should Add Weights to Your Practice

6 Ways to Add Weights to Your Yoga Practice

For efficient bone building (and fun!), add these exercises from Lori Rubenstein Fazzio, DPT, C-IAYT, into your yoga practice.

Part 1: The 12-Minute Yoga Sequence Backed By Research to Strengthen Your Bones
Part 3: The Nutrients You Need for Strong Bones & a Sesame-Cabbage Salad with Salmon That Has Them All