This is a guest article by Penelope Wasserman on how to exercize for strong bone health. She had noticed my articles on fitness wear and wanted to stress the importance of proper alignment and fitness. So many women do their exercises wrong, which causes injury.

As a sufferer of lower back pain myself and as someone who has just started a new personal fitness regime to recover from my broken shoulder and build strength, I was interested to hear her perspective and learn how to exercize the right way. 

In this article she will outline how you can avoid exercises that cause you pain. You’ll also learn how to make sure that your body stays in alignment and your bones maintain their strength.

style and alignment

I consider myself a fashion addict (if there is such a thing). For as long as I can remember, dressing up was something I looked forward to each day. In fact, planning what to wear for any and every occasion, no matter what, made me rise to the occasion. 

I treasure my clothes for the memories they hold as much as the way that wearing them makes me feel about who I am and how certain outfits can make me stand taller or sit straighter in my chair, simply because of the elegance of their construct. 

It’s no wonder then, that my career ended up having so much to do with awareness of posture and alignment. 

The importance of proper posture and alignment

For the past 20 years, I have been teaching people how to exercise with an awareness of their internal alignment, and how to avoid breaking a bone while doing so. I am an osteoporosis exercise specialist with a background in classical Pilates education, and a ballet dancer. 

Part of the fun of my job has always been dressing up. It helped me to find my authenticity, especially earlier in my career when I had more passion than expertise. 

Early on I started getting a lot of clients coming into my studio with chronic back pain and diagnoses of osteoporosis (low bone density), so it became clear very soon that I needed to work with them differently. 

how to exercize: Are you exercising the wrong way?

You see, when our bodies are in pain, and we haven’t just had an acute injury, it often means that something we are doing repeatedly is making us hurt. The adage “no pain no gain” is simply wrong! 

I also noticed a lot of “crooked” people coming in the door who were very active. What that meant was that they were doing a lot of things to strengthen their crooked postures instead of correcting them first. When you strengthen a compensatory movement pattern you make it worse. It also tends to cause pain which is a signal for your body to STOP it.

how to exercize the right way

If you want to learn how to exercize the right way, you need to keep the following in mind.

Stop putting your spine into a C curve

Simply put, any exercise that puts your spine into a “C” curve position should be avoided. Our motto at www.milliondollarbones.com and www.shiftingstances.com is “You can’t spell slouch without OUCH!” 

What are “C postures”? 

They are also known as flexion exercises. They are sit-ups, crunches, roll-ups, a yoga plough exercise where you lie on your back and bring your feet over your head, hanging over to touch your toes, rounding your spine forward slouching on a bike seat, swinging a golf club or tennis racket without standing upright, doing bicep curls while slouching…and much more. 

When are these exercises dangerous?

When you are loading them with extra weight from your body, free weights, or even a strong sneeze or cough. Your own air pressure can cause a stress fracture or worse in your spine which will cause pain. If you have chronic low back pain and continue to do flexion exercises you will continue to have pain.

When doing exercises you want to make sure that you look after the bones that are most prone to osteoporosis. These are the bones at the front of our backbones, our hips, and our wrists. It’s essential that you move these parts of your body in good alignment. You need to work from a neutral pelvis position with our core muscles engaged. Surprisingly, this is much easier than many people realize and what I have been teaching for 20 years. 

Bad alignment often comes from old injuries or wearing the wrong shoes

Everything in our body is connected. If we sprained our ankle decades ago or wore a lot of pointy toed pumps in our 20’s and 30’s and 40’s we may feel the consequences now. Bad shoes may have caused bunions or we have had to compensate how we walk, sit, or stand due to foot pain. In the process we may also have thrown off the alignment of our pelvis. 

Check these articles to find the best arch support shoes and shoes to wear when you have bunions.

Let’s imagine our pelvis as a floor in a building….

Think of your pelvis as an internal ceiling and floor in a building. That’s the same thing that it is in our bodies. Our spine sits in it at our sacroiliac joint and our legs hang from it. 

If we were a house, our pelvis would be the ceiling that a chandelier hangs from and our walls support. If that ceiling is crooked, then we are living in a crooked house. 

Soon things start to wear out and break over time because it isn’t structurally sound. If our pelvis is crooked, then the rest of our skeletal alignment also cannot remain structurally sound. We get aches and pains in our muscles and joints. 

Maybe we sit all day and slouch and put too much pressure on our spines. Maybe we don’t ever give our spines time to get the elongation they need to self-correct. And then because our bones are fragile, they begin to crumble inside of us and for a while we have no idea it is even happening. 

How can we look after our bones?

Our bones are the foundations that are bodies conform to and because they are on the inside and not out, most of us don’t give them a lot of thought. They get to be their strongest by our early twenties and from then on, we can only do our best to maintain that strength. 

We were told for years to drink milk for strong bones but that’s about it and unfortunately it wasn’t the best advice. There is a reason why over half of women over 50 years of age and a quarter of men will suffer an osteoporosis related fracture and it has a lot to do with the lack of accurate education around bone health. 

There’s a lot you can do to increase bone health

The fragility and the increased chance of borne fracture that comes with having osteoporosis isn’t an inevitable part of aging. It is a childhood disease that is only manifested in adulthood.

Now, due to the incredible amounts of people living sedentary lifestyles, often dealing with stress and eating highly processed diets, it is almost inevitable and younger people are getting it. Because of that, everyone should learn and practice how to exercise with proper posture.

how to exercize the right way for strong bones

Most people with osteoporosis don’t know they have it. So unfortunately, they are not doing anything to prevent it from getting worse. In fact, many are unwittingly making it worse by doing the wrong exercises. 

This isn’t new information. In 1984 a study done in post-menopausal women basically showed that it is better to not exercise at all than do the wrong exercises (flexion) for the spine when you have low bone density. You can read about it here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6487063/

What exercises can you do instead of flexion? 

1-Decompression posture

This exercise should be done daily and is safe to do if your back is hurting. It is the decompression posture

Simply lie flat on your back with your knees bent and your arms out to the side halfway between shoulder height and by your sides. Your neck should be long with a slight space underneath. You may need a pillow under your head or a folded towel to support your neck to maintain the axial elongation of your spine. This posture should not hurt!  Keep your palms facing the ceiling.

How to exercize the right way - back decompression exercize | 40plusstyle.com

If you need to support your legs on a chair then do so. Stay here for 18 minutes and invite your pelvis to relax. 

How to exercize the right way - back decompression posture advanced | 40plusstyle.com

We hold lots of tension in our hips and pelvis. Practice breathing deeply into the backs and sides of your lungs as if you are blowing up balloons and letting all the air out on your exhalations. Try and make your exhales last longer each time. You should have a small space under your neck and one under your waist where your spine’s natural curvatures are. 

Don’t flatten your back as this will force your lower back into a C curve posture which is as damaging as the head-forward C-curve posture. If you only have time for one exercise each day, then do this simple and effective exercise. It will have a profoundly positive impact on your posture, your breathing, your digestion, and your energy. Add in a smile for extra benefits and perhaps some meditation!

2-decompression posture advanced

Once you have mastered the decompression exercise you can bring your pelvis into neutral by making a triangle with your hands (thumbs and index fingers touching and palms flat on your abdomen). Your thumbs should be an inch below your navel with your index fingers pointing towards your pubic bone. Your thumbs and fingers should remain on the same level plane. 

decompression posture advanced exercize | 40plusstyle.com

This is what neutral pelvis looks like and you should practice pulling your navel to your spine without flattening your back and tucking your tail. It often feels strange for people to strengthen the neutral pelvis position because they have been taught for so long to tuck their tails and flatten their backs. As you get stronger you will feel your abdominal muscles working from within to help you maintain this neutral pelvis and ideally all your exercise and movements will initiate from this safe place inside of you.

3-extension exercise

Since flexion exercises should be avoided, most people will benefit from extension exercises. They are the opposite of flexion. Flexion curls you into a ball while extension opens you up and helps you get big and strong and pain free! 

A simple way to begin is by lying on your tummy with your hands placed one on top of the other resting on the mat under your forehead. Place your forehead on your hands. Pull your navel up to your spine and feel your waist muscles contract isometrically. Then relax them. Try it again adding an inhale on the contraction and exhale when you relax. 

After you have mastered this part add in a head lift. 

After you have done the head lift, add in a chest lift. Pull your navel to your spine as you lift your head, hands, and heart off the mat. Do this 3X each day. 

Connecting to your core muscles

This gentle process of connecting to your core muscles is the beginning of strengthening your spine and the small muscles that connect to the back of your backbone. (The bony part that you can feel)

The bones in your spine called vertebrae that break are located in the front of the backbone. When they compress into wedges like triangles you lose height, and the pressure often causes herniation pain between the discs. Lifting your head and torso off the mat is an extension exercise. 

Will you be exercizing the right way going forward?

I hope that you have found this article to be helpful and really wish that exercising safely and with intention on postural awareness becomes fashionable this year and into the future. For the sake of ourselves, our loved ones, and future generations. With preventive education around safe movement and exercise patterns, good nutrition, and mindfulness, we can eradicate osteoporosis! 

Penelope Wasserman is the founder of Million Dollar Bones and a managing consultant at Changing Tastes where she creates campaigns and strategies to promote social and ecological restoration using food as her medium as well as integrating multi-sensory awareness and physical alignment to in-person decision making, training, and other experiences.

Penelope Wasserman discusses how to exercize the right way

Penelope Wasserman is the founder of Million Dollar Bones and a managing consultant at Changing Tastes where she creates campaigns and strategies to promote social and ecological restoration using food as her medium as well as integrating multi-sensory awareness and physical alignment to in-person decision making, training, and other experiences.

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How to exercize for strong bone health and good posture | 40plusstyle.com

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