Doing weight-bearing exercise like running or playing outside at a young age can set you up for bone strength as you age.  Weight-bearing like walking and weight training as you get older can keep bones strong and stave off injury.


What is weight-bearing exercise?

Weight-bearing exercise is any type of exercise that utilizes the resistance of muscular contractions, making your muscles work to overcome a resistance force.  Essentially, performing movements where our body is upright and working against gravity. Examples of weight-bearing exercises include weight training, walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, tennis, and dancing.  Anything where the body is sustaining impact, including bodyweight exercise.


Why do we need weight-bearing exercise?

Our bones remodel and regrow themselves when there is a stimulus from the external environment.  Weight-bearing exercise creates bone density when it comes to preventing osteoporosis. Women and men older than 20 can help prevent bone loss with regular exercise.  It allows us to maintain muscle strength, coordination, and balance which helps to prevent falls and related fractures. Including more weight-bearing exercises can also help keep body fat percentages from increasing and maintain a faster metabolism.  It promotes optimal joint function, boosts cardiovascular and lung health, raise your body’s levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, and helps with prevention of the onset of diabetes.


How do you do it?

The Surgeon General suggests an optimal goal of at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days, daily if possible.  Bones respond best to weight-bearing exercise when movements are made up of short, high-intensity bursts. Doing resistance training uses your muscles to move an external force and the muscles pull on the bones.  Weight-bearing activity should be progressively harder, meaning; weights heavier, impacts higher, and incorporating variety throughout.

Higher intensity activity can also boost EPOC by up to 15% (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, commonly called “Afterburn”). As a rule of thumb, you should choose a level of resistance which tires your muscle after approximately 12 repetitions; less resistance is not effective enough and more could be too much.

In a study published by the Journal of Applied Physiology, volunteers between the ages of 35-57, either obese or overweight and haven’t done any resistance training in ten years were tested for 16 weeks. They were split into three groups: one sedentary, one intense resistance training and the third was varied (resistance training, cardiovascular, and stretching). After the sixteen weeks, those who were in the third group had the greatest reduction in body weight, belly fat and blood sugar levels, and the highest increase in lean body mass percentage.  

Tips to make it tougher:

-Do more total reps by adding more per set or more sets.

-Add weight if you don’t currently do resistance training or progress to more.

-Change your tempo.  If you normally go fast slow it down (it would help strengthen the joints), or vice versa.

-Make your brain multitask like throwing a twist into your walking lunges, or split stance medicine ball throws.  


Do you squat?

One of the most beneficial weight-bearing movements is a squat.  Get-ups and deadlifts are also good weight-bearing and functional movements.  We’re not talking exclusively about heavy barbell movements, there are plenty of variations to go around.  Proper positioning during weight bearing is crucial no matter what it is.

Let’s use squatting as an example.  We’re squatting several times a day, life dictates that we stand up, sit down, get out of the car, get off the ground, walk up the steps, etc.  Fitness Expert David Jack says, “If our patterns are off, we become limited in our range of motion or get weaker in the muscles we need to stand up and sit down safely.”  He goes on to say, “we’ll begin to compensate and use other muscles we shouldn’t in order to do everyday movements.” If that continues long enough, you will risk overloading other parts of your body causing you to lose the ability to get up and sit down on your own.  “It happens quickly if we let it slip,” Jack says.

Squat form:

-Make sure your set your feet.  Generally, your feet are slightly outside of shoulder width but they can vary depending on your build and the specific equipment you are using.

-Lower into a squat.  Make sure you have a good posture allowing you to keep your eyes forward, chest up, heels planted, and make sure your knees don’t cave in (this includes any jumping or leg presses)

-Listen to what your body is telling you.  We’re you about to keep proper squat posture? Did you feel pain in your low back? Were your knees caving? If you are not sure if it is right, ask.


The Takeaway

Next time you workout, make sure you’re doing something on your feet.  Get off that leg press and do a squat, do dumbbell bench instead of the machine, walk on the track or add a step class.  Weight bearing activity is an integral part in staying strong and healthy no matter your age. If you’re not sure you can add more weight bearing activity, ask a trainer there are so many exercises you can do don’t be afraid to try something new.

As one of the premier health clubs in Allentown, we strive to provide each guest with the knowledge that they need to improve their lifestyle. If you have any additional questions about how you can start incorporating weight bearing exercises into your workouts, stop in today and we would be more than happy to assist you!

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