To reap the long-term effects of exercise on bones, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults do at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise and at least two days of muscle strengthening exercises of all of the major muscle groups. The benefits of exercise on the skeletal system include increased bone density, improved joint mobility and increased synovial fluid circulation.
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Short-term effects of exercise on the skeletal system include the start of bone remodeling and strengthening. Over time, bone strength and density increase, circulation of blood and synovial fluid improves, and your strength and range of motion increase.
Improve Bone Density
As the body ages, bone density naturally decreases. In severe cases it leads to osteoporosis, resulting in increased fractures and falls from weakness. Exercise increases bone strength and mineral density.
Exercise helps to mitigate the process of bone degeneration and causes remodeling of the bones, a process which repairs small damages and strengthens the bones to adapt to the demands of exercise. The remodeling occurs as a result of stress on the bone from muscle contraction and impact during weight-bearing exercises, such as running, stair climbing and jumping rope.
Range of Movement in the Joints
Joints connect bones in your body and consist of tissues such as cartilage, ligaments and meniscus. Regular exercise also improves the health and mobility of your joints while a sedentary lifestyle can lead to joint degeneration and rigidity in the joints.
Cartilage must be stressed by exercise and movement to remain functional, according to an article published in 2017 by Clinical Calcium. In addition, exercise increases blood and synovial fluid circulation in your joints. Synovial fluid is the substance that lubricates your joints. This helps not only healthy joints but can help relieve pain and add stability to joints with osteoarthritis.
Muscular Strength and Support
The muscles are an important component of the musculoskeletal system. In addition to the benefits to your bones and joints, exercise increases your muscular strength, stamina and flexibility. All of these components allow you to perform tasks more easily and decrease your risk of injury and falls. Strong muscles also help to support and protect your joints, decreasing the risk of injury, says Harvard Health Publishing.
Exercise Risks and Considerations
Exercise offers many benefits, but also brings the risk of harm and injury. Avoid injury by performing all exercises with correct form to avoid wrenching a joint or pulling a muscle.
Do not lift weights that are too heavy for your fitness level, and increase the intensity of your workouts slowly over time to allow your body to adapt and strengthen without injury. If necessary, perform modified versions of exercises to build up your strength and protect your joints. For example, if you can't yet do a regular push-up, try a wall push-up or knee push-up.
Listen to your body. If you experience pain, stop the exercise and consult your doctor. In some cases, joints and tendons may be damaged from overuse of performing too many of a single exercise. Switch up your routine and perform a variety of exercises. Support your body during exercise by maintaining a healthy diet and staying hydrated.
Consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
- National Institutes of Health: "Exercise and Bone Health Across the Lifespan"
- National Institutes of Health: "Effects of Exercise on Joints"
- National Institutes of Health: "Exercise Early and Often: Effects of Physical Activity and Exercise on Women’s Bone Health"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Easy Ways to Adapt Exercises When You Have Arthritis"