Health Topics

Maintaining Healthy Bones and Staying Fit for Life

Maintaining Healthy Bones and Staying Fit for Life

As people age, changes take place in the nervous and muscular systems that make the body less able to activate the muscles. Studies show that this process can be slowed considerably through activity and exercise.

Bone Density and Muscle Strength

A relationship has been established between bone density and inactivity. Increased stress on bones stimulates bone growth, while lack of stress decreases bone growth. Weight-bearing activities (activities that make the muscles work against gravity, such as walking) produce the stress needed to stimulate bone growth. Lack of muscular stress on bones, as well as lack of weight-bearing stimuli will lead to decreased bone density.

Bone Changes That Occur With Age

View the listing below to learn more about how your body will change as you go through different cycles in your life.

  • Age 18 to 24 — Peak bone density and strength in bones.
  • Age 25 to 35 — Maximal muscle strength.
  • Age 30 — Decline in arm strength at a steady rate.
  • Age 35 — Loss of ½ a pound of muscle, gain of 1½ pounds of fat each year.
  • Age 40 to 50 — Declines in bone mineral density.
  • Age 60 to 70 — Decline in strength force by 20 to 40 percent.

Musculoskeletal Changes Due to Aging

Musculoskeletal changes due to natural causes (biologic causes) include decreases in the number and size of muscle fibers and a cardiovascular system that loses efficiency over time. These are causes we cannot change. Whereas functional causes include a decrease in activity as people age which can also decrease flexibility and strength. We can take steps to guard against this process by staying active. View our exercise tips listed below for more information.

Exercise Choices

  • Osteoarthritis — walking, swimming, biking and stretching are recommended. Avoid activities that put excessive stress on the joint, such as aerobic workouts, running or competitive sports.
  • Low back pain — try daily stretching, followed by a more active exercise program that includes walking, swimming, biking and strength training.
  • Osteoporosis — recommended are weight-bearing activities such as walking, hiking, biking, stair climbing, dancing, racquet sports and treadmill.
  • Total joint replacement — recommended are activities that do not place repeated stress on the replacements, such as swimming, biking, golf or doubles tennis.


Osteoporosis is an overall reduction in bone mass below the normal adult range. The chemical composition of bone is unchanged and there is simply less bone.

Causes of Osteoporosis

  1. Hormone deficiency of the menopausal state (The hormone estrogen protects against bone loss. Levels of estrogen decrease after menopause.)
  2. Nutritional deficiencies, specifically but not limited to dietary calcium
  3. Decreased physical activity or immobilization

Exercise or simply increased physical activity has been shown to be associated with an increased bone mass. Find a program you like and stick with it to be fit for life.

For more information on osteoporosis, download the Free Osteoporosis Treatment Guide.