Got a passion for petunias? You may be doing just as much to fight osteoporosis in the garden as you do at the gym.
When was the last time you dragged sacks of potting soil from your trunk to your back yard? How about the last time you hit the dance floor?
We know that strength training, running, brisk walking and other forms of weight-bearing exercise keep bones strong. Now there's evidence that some of our more vigorous hobbies also may help to thwart bone loss.
Researchers at the University of Arkansas recently reported that yard work preserves bones as effectively as run-of-the-mill fitness programs.
You can comfortably extrapolate to other hobbies, says Jeanne Foley, associate professor of exercise physiology at Michigan State University, who was not involved with the study.
You can raft, sail, canoe, dance, ride a horse, play drums in a heavy metal band or train Great Danes and get many of the same bone-building benefits
as you would at the gym.
"There are many things you do purely for the enjoyment of it, not specifically for exercise, that involve all kinds of movements and challenges," says Foley. While, in most cases, there is no hard data to confirm the effects on bone health, there's reason to believe these activities can offer a step in the right direction.
Most proud homeowners are so goal-oriented in their yard-improvement efforts that they don't even realize how hard they've worked. If your muscles are sore, you probably worked hard.
Keep in mind that lifting pots, dragging soil and digging holes may be the greater factor in building bone density
rather than the crouching and kneeling also associated with gardening, says Foley.
2. Water Sports
When people think of water, they think swimming, which is not considered a weight-bearing exercise. But there are plenty of water sports that will give your bones the workout they need. Like boating, for example.
A rule of thumb: the smaller the boat and the fewer people on it, the better the workout. If you're flying along on a one-person laser and repeatedly kissing the deck to avoid the boom passing over your head, you're getting a heck of a workout.
Surfing involves a great deal of paddling, but it also involves a weight-bearing workout
. You have to lift your own body weight onto the board, and then stabilize yourself as you fight the resistance of each wave. This is heavy-duty stuff.
Whether it is ballroom dancing, swing or hip-hop, if it's vigorous, it's great exercise.
Some forms of dance may also help to improve balance and posture, which may help to prevent against falls and stooping later in life.
Climbing uphill is more taxing on the muscles, and going downhill provides a greater load on the frame. Add a backpack or a small child on your shoulders, and you're really talking bone-strengthening workout.
5. Horseback Riding
You pull on the reins, kick, mount and dismount, post the trot, squeeze the legs on a canter, pull the halter on a stubborn nag, and sometimes fall and brush yourself off. Ride 'em, bone-building cowgirl!