What do exercise and T'ai Chi Chih have to do with strong bones? EVERYTHING!

September 8, 2019

I'm sure I'm about to blow a lot of your minds when I say that FOR MOST PEOPLE taking a calcium supplement is NOT the best way to either ward off or reverse bone loss. In fact for the first time in human history there's a huge population of folks in this country that have lost bone mass, are taking calcium supplements yet are NOT reversing their conditions, but instead are growing bone spurs and throwing kidney stones (basically the calcium supplements are going to all the wrong places.)


So I'm sure I'm about to blow almost all the rest of your minds when I say that changing up just 3 aspects of your lifestyle is typically all it takes to reverse bone loss (no matter where on the bone loss spectrum you are): you simply need to improve the way you move, the way you relax, and the way you eat.

For today, however, I'm just going to focus on the moving and relaxing part so let’s get right to it.

We all know we’re supposed to move often, right? But these days it’s rare you’ll hear even fitness experts talking about specific kinds of exercise that definitely impact bone density. So let me be the first to tell you it's pretty easy to improve bone density even if you already have full-blown osteoporosis…all you have to do is pound a little on the bones and pull a little on the bones (on a regular basis, of course…that's where the moving-often part figures into the picture!)

Pounding on the bones actually occurs during any type of impact exercise (and even walking counts so no need to worry that I'll be asking your hump-backed Granny to start training for her first marathon!) All I'm really talking about here is 30-60 minutes 3-6 days a week of any rhythmic, sustained activity that involves your feet hitting a hard surface like brisk walking, running, jumping rope, or even stair climbing. And you can get pretty snazzy about your choice in "pounding" if you like: test drive various dance-style aerobics classes or try playing around with HIIT or Tabata training (just to name a couple of popular variations on good 'ole fashioned impact exercise) but the true key to success is finding the activity you like best then simply doing it on a regular basis.

Pulling on the bones, on the other hand, means nothing more than strength training for 30-60 minutes at least 2 or better yet 3 times a week (but never on consecutive days) with the goal of conditioning all of the major muscle groups including legs, back, chest, arms and core.

And you might be surprised to hear that when I'm working with a client whose primary concern is improved bone density, I almost never use or prescribe machines for the strength training portion of their regular exercise routine. Why, you ask? Because you might also be surprised to learn that most machines were actually designed to rehab injured muscles, not strengthen healthy ones. It’s also been my experience (both in my own workouts and in working with umpteen clients) that some of the most popular strength training techniques these days are either irrelevant or downright dangerous: when strength training is performed exclusively with machines you’re not only using fewer muscles but the muscles you're using aren't learning to be fully functional either.

But here's why you can stop silently calling me a conspiracy theorist: because when muscles are touching something soft and squishy (like the backrest of a machine at the gym for instance) the brain sends a signal to those muscles that it's time to relax so they basically don't work (at least to their fullest capacity) while you're performing the exercise. (BTW crossfit-ish type strength training routines aren’t all that good for you either because their unsystematic intensity often leads to both muscle and bone injury but that’s a whole other blog.)

When you’re standing up and using a free-weight to do the same exercise you were about to do while seated at a machine, however, lots more muscles throughout your body have to fire off in order to stabilize not just your core but all the muscles you’re about to move…in other words your whole body works in an integrated and completely coordinated manner. In the end you’ll not only use more muscles, you'll strengthen more muscles, and therefore strengthen your bones more efficiently, and even be more functionally fit (in other words be in better shape to do all the things you love without pain until the day you die AND WHO DOESN’T WANT THAT???!!!)

So now let’s switch gears and talk about the way everyone who wants to either ward off or improve bone loss should relax (and I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear that this conversation is going to include plenty of info on T'ai Chi Chih LOL!)

"So why," you ask "does T'ai Chi Chih have anything to do with bone density?"

Good question! And I'll give you two answers (one sorta "woo woo" answer plus another pretty darn scientific one.)

From a Chinese perspective, the purpose of doing T'ai Chi Chih is to activate, circulate, and balance your vital force, or your Chi - the energy that's flowing through your body (whether you know it or not) from the moment you're born until the moment you die (and it probably doesn't actually stop flowing when you die…I imagine it simply disperses into the universe but I digress.)

But your Chi is actually only activated and circulated during the moving portions of T'ai Chi Chih…during the brief moments of absolute stillness, however, your Chi balances and settles down IN YOUR BONES (which not only has a lot to do with bone density but also has a great deal to do with your health in general…remember the MARROW of your bones is literally the cradle of your immune system.)

And in support of my "woo woo" theory on the connection between T'ai Chi Chih and improved bone density I'll share a very interesting true story: I personally know several people who in the last few years have begun practicing T'ai Chi Chih very regularly…they were already leading healthy lifestyles: eating well, exercising, and they weren't overweight or unhealthy in any way except they were all in the beginning stages of full-blown osteoporosis UNTIL THEY ADDED T'AI CHI CHIH INTO THE EQUATION at which time their osteoporotic conditions literally began to reverse. Each one of them told me personally how astounded their doctors were to learn that all they’d done differently since their last DXA scan was practice T'ai Chi Chih every day.

And I'd be perfectly happy to sit here and debate this theory of mine until we're all blue in the face but instead why don't we shift gears and look at this whole subject from a scientific perspective for a moment.

When you're stressed out your cortisol level rises…elevated cortisol is an inflammatory response. If your cortisol remains consistently high for a period of time it becomes chronically elevated which inevitably leads to what's known as "chronic systemic inflammation." And if you boil every single major disease (including osteoporosis) down to its absolute essence and origin, all diseases look the same: they all begin with chronic systemic inflammation. So if you don't like T'ai Chi Chih but you do like and practice some other type of high-quality relaxation technique (& most likely mindfulness relaxation/meditation techniques are the most health enhancing of all) then you can still very easily lower your inflammation. No other mindfulness practice literally strengthens your bones at the same time, however (see how we've circled back around to my woo woo theory?!)

So even though I've given you a few important bone-strengthening tips today I'm sure I've also cranked your stress level up a notch just thinking about all the ways in you've probably been (purposefully?) misled all your life…I apologize for bursting your milk bubbles (but somebody had to tell you the truth, right?)

And if you'd like to learn A LOT more about ways to keep bones strong plus how to stay flexible and functional till the day you die, then I have a bunch of classes coming up really soon you really should not miss.

The first is Hockessin Chiropractic Centre's osteoporosis prevention workshop It’s Not All About Calcium!

This unique interactive workshop is a perfect combination of no-gym-membership-or-equipment-required total body exercises, plus even relaxation/meditation techniques along with important (and yummy…you'll get to taste-test everything too!) whole-food nutrition tips guaranteed to improve the density of your bones even if you’ve already been diagnosed with either osteopenia or osteoporosis (and BTW this class definitely isn’t just for women!)

Participants can choose to learn by watching or jump right in and experience everything firsthand so grab your comfortable clothes, water bottle, and yoga mat then click here for more info and to register (but no later than September 10th…SPACE IS LIMITED!)

But that’s nowhere near all I have to offer you today, folks…not just one but FOUR introductory T’ai Chi Chih classes will be commencing in only a couple of weeks in THREE beautiful locations. Plus I’ve also put together a very special T’ai Chi Chih workshop along with Liquid Alchemy Beverages called Care for a little Chi & mead (plus coffee & tea)? 

In addition to improving bone density, T’ai Chi Chih is also an evidence-based viable treatment option for reducing pain, depression, anxiety, weight, plus various inflammatory conditions & disease symptoms. On the other hand it also improves sleep, balance, focus, joy, AND OVERALL WELLBEING. Best of all, though, just 15-30 minutes of daily practice is all most people need to experience the benefits…in my experience T'ai Chi Chih is clearly the most user-friendly, accessible method of improving your health (AND YOUR LIFE!) I have ever encountered and never before have I offered so many options at once to learn this PROFOUND YET EASY moving mindfulness practice.

So don’t miss the boat on any of this…just click for my complete Fall lineup THEN SIGN UP (FOR MULTIPLE CLASSES?) TODAY!

Feel Free to Reach Out

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form