FACT: Muscle-toning exercises and low-impact activities such as walking and swimming are great for your health and overall strength, but they don't seem to provide enough stimulus to actually increase bone mass, says Miriam Nelson, Ph.D., an associate professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston. That's because bone-building cells need a sufficient amount of stress to be stimulated to do their thing. But the good news is that all that lower-impact activity does boost your coordination and balance, therefore decreasing your risk of falls—and fractures.
ACTION TO TAKE: All exercise is good for you. So keep up your weekly walks. But think about adding some moves that improve your balance to your routine. Standing on one leg or using a balance board is beneficial, says Nelson. And start jumping. Adding 10 minutes of jumping to your morning and evening routine (20 jumps with 30-seconds of rest in between) has been shown to improve bone density in women, says Larry Tucker, Ph.D., a professor in the department of exercise sciences at Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah. You can also add impact with sports that require hitting a ball, such as volleyball or racquetball. Studies show that tennis players have greater bone density in their hitting arm. If you're new to exercise, you're likely to reap the biggest rewards: One study at Oregon State University in Corvallis found that women with low bone density who started a routine doing jumps and strength training had a two to five times greater improvement in bone density as a result of the one-year program than women who began the study with high bone density.