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Six exercises for strong bones

Fend off fractures and keep brittle bones at bay with this circuit workout.

By Joan Teotico


People mostly exercise for heart health and weight loss, or they want to develop a better-looking physique—a lean, toned body with visible muscles. But what about breaking a sweat for bone-protecting benefits?

“Exercise helps build bone mass. The skeleton is actively renewing itself at different rates depending on our age. But the process continues and is helped along by repetitive and proper weight bearing from exercise. This is what we call Wolff's law: that bone thickens over time if it experiences constant loading like in exercise,” says John Andrew Michael Bengzon, M.D., F.P.O.A., M.B.A.H., an orthopedic surgeon at The Medical City and Philippine Orthopedic Center, and president of SPARC Sports Performance Center. The downside? Wolff’s law also works the other way—when the loading decreases, bone also weakens. Plus, our seemingly unbreakable skeletal framework of more than 200 bones is susceptible to fractures and disease.

According to a 2008 study published in Archives of Osteoporosis, there is a 19.8 percent prevalence of osteoporosis in post-menopausal women from Davao, Philippines. And based on findings of a 2007 study published in the Philippine Journal of Internal Medicine, the prevalence of fractures in females and males 50 years and above is 11.3 percent and 9.0 percent, respectively.

To help bolster bone health, Jose Rafael Magno, strength and conditioning coach of SPARC Sports Performance Center, developed a total-body circuit workout for HealthToday. Each move applies an external force to the bones, which makes them stronger. External force stimulates the production of bone cells, adds Rachel Ann Santos, P.T.R.P., head physical therapist of the center.

The bone-strengthening routine includes “mostly compound exercises, which target more than one muscle group,” Magno says. Some moves require the use of dumbbells; others maximize our body weight as a natural resistance.

For overall bone health, Dr. Bengzon recommends doing a combination of strength training and cardiovascular exercises like running and swimming. If you have underlying or existing medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, talk to your doctor or specialist who may recommend tests that are required for your specific condition and secure a medical clearance. If you have been diagnosed with a bone or joint condition such as osteopenia or osteoporosis, ask your doctor which exercises and physical activities are safe for you.

The workout

Warm up with light jogging or jumping rope for five to 10 minutes to increase heart rate, body temperature and blood flow in the muscles.

Do 10 to 12 repetitions of each exercise in the given order on the following pages. After completing one set of the circuit, rest between 30 seconds up to a minute. Repeat two more times for a total of three sets. Do the workout three times a week with rest days in between.

Exercise 1

(targets legs and core)

1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Lower your body into a squat, and place your hands on the floor in front of you.

2. Kick your feet back so that you are in a pushup position. Kick your feet back to their original position; jump. Return to starting position.

Exercise 2

Goblet squats
(targets legs, quads, hamstrings and glutes)

1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell vertically in front of your chest.

2. While maintaining an erect torso, squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Return to starting position.

Exercise 3

Mountain climbers
(targets upper body and core)

1. Get into a basic pushup position with arms straight from the shoulders in line with the chest.

2. From this position, lift one knee toward the chest then bring it back to its starting position while bringing the other knee towards the chest. Do this continuously until you complete 10 to 12 reps for each leg.

Meet your fitness coach

Jose Rafael Magno is the strength and conditioning coach of SPARC Sports Performance Center, G/F Far Eastern University Technology Building, Nicanor Reyes St., Sampaloc, Manila. He graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a degree in Sports Science. Email him at

For the full, illustrated circuit routine Coach Magno put together for stronger bones, grab a copy of the October issue of HealthToday.

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