On-the-Go Preventative Exercises for Bone and Muscle Health

January 15, 2019

An athlete with knee pain
Jonathan Thompson

The importance of preventive health care simply cannot be overstated: An illness or injury is always going to be more costly than appropriate preventative health strategies. Musculoskeletal injuries — like broken bones or torn muscles — are a prime example. These common injuries can completely disrupt your daily routine and rack up some truly intimidating medical expenses. A broken femur, for example, could cost around $15,000 to treat surgically. And this doesn't account for any other restrictions that might result. So what can you do? As you rush to keep up with the demands of your professional and personal life, what are some preventative exercises that could improve the health of your muscles and bones?

Resistance Training

It's not a big secret that resistance training — like weightlifting — is good for your muscles. What many people don't realize, however, is that a properly designed resistance training program can also increase your bone health and help protect your muscles from injury.

How exactly can this type of workout prevent bone injuries? Think about how weight training strengthens your muscles. As you gradually lift heavier weights, your muscles continue to get bigger and stronger to keep up. The mechanism is roughly the same when it comes to your bones. By gradually putting your bones under controlled amounts of resistance, you signal to your brain that they have to become stronger and more dense in order to keep up with the demands of the world around you, according to TIME.

What about your muscles, though? As mentioned, resistance training will make them stronger, but how is this an effective way to prevent injury? Put simply, stronger muscles will be better equipped to support your body through a variety of movements. It is important to note, however, that your muscles have to be trained for specific motions or activities. If your job, for example, requires you to perform a certain task over and over, you can train your muscles to execute that movement more efficiently. Or, for more general benefits, you can practice cross-training, wherein you benefit in a variety of ways.

Which exercises, specifically, can you do to build up your bones and muscles on-the-go? Here's a basic workout that can be performed just about anywhere with little-to-no special equipment. Of course, you can also use these exercises individually if you don't have the time — or desire — to commit to a whole workout all at once. Perform three sets of 10 reps of each exercise, rest about 90 seconds between each set. Move slowly through each exercise, keeping your back straight and your core tight. To make sure that you have proper form and can perform these exercises safely, start with just your bodyweight as resistance.

  • Deep squats - Stand straight with your hands at your side. Keeping your core tight and your back straight, bend your knees while lowering your hips to the ground. Squat down until your thighs are just past parallel to the ground. Slowly reverse the motion to return to the starting position.
  • Shrimp squats (each leg) - Stand straight with your hands at your side. Bend your right leg back at the knee so that your shin is roughly parallel to the ground. Keeping your back straight, slowly bend your left knee so that you perform a squat. Go as low as you can while maintaining your balance. Return to standing and switch legs.
  • Planks (30 seconds) - Start in a push-up position, with your legs straight behind you and your palms on the floor directly under your shoulders. Straighten your arms and tighten your core to lift your body off the ground. Your back should remain straight at all times. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds.
  • Side Plank (10 seconds on each side) - Begin as if doing a standard plank. Slowly shift your weight so that your left arm is supporting your weight. Tighten your core to maintain a straight line from your head to your toes. Hold for 10 seconds and then switch sides.
  • Push-ups - Lie on the floor with your legs straight behind you and your palms directly under your shoulders. While keeping your back straight and your core tight, straighten your arms to lift your body off the ground.
  • Let-me-ins - Stand facing an open door, with your feet on either side and your hands gripping the door knobs. Bend your knees to roughly 90-degrees and lean back until your arms are straight. As if rowing, bend your elbows to pull your torso toward the door. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.

Building Balance

Among the various aspects of fitness and preventative health strategies, balance tends to be one of the most overlooked. This is unfortunate because balance training is one of the most effective ways to prevent falls and reduce the risk of injury when something does happen, according to Harvard Medical School. In fact, one study even found that balance training reduced the amount of falls that caused broken bones by as much as 61 percent.

Interestingly, balance and strength are very closely related, which means that the two can often be trained at the same time. It will take a little bit of forethought to select the right program. Training programs like yoga, tai chi and Pilates have all been shown to increase strength and balance, while decreasing the risk of falls and injuries.

While the importance of preventive health care is clear. There are lots of ways that you can protect your bones and muscles. Along with building strength and increasing balance, another crucial step is to simply stay active during the day and avoid repetitive tasks. If your job requires you to work at a desk and perform one movement over and over, take a 10-minute break every hour to stretch and relax the target joint.

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