Want strong bones? Beat yourself up…with these simple movements.
Lewis Paleias was once introduced to a doctor in Shanghai, China as a teacher who taught Tai Chi for bone density in the United States. With a jab to Paleias’ sternum, the doctor asked, “Don’t you people walk?”
Paleias explained the doctor’s admonishment this way: “In China, you see old people in the park walking, dancing and doing Tai Chi. In the United States, you see old people in the park…sitting.” The Chinese penchant for walking helps keep bones healthy. And bone health has to be a top priority for everyone, even as early as age 35 when the body stops building its bone stores and certainly as we progress through all the decades that follow.
To counteract all this sitting, Paleias, who leads Tai Chi classes for seniors at the Martha Stewart Center for Living at Mt. Sinai Hospital and various nursing homes in Manhattan, teaches the Horse Stance, a basic Tai Chi posture. Paleias explains that just holding this wide-legged position with the knees bent exerts strong, steady pressure on the head of the femur bone and pelvic bones, which strengthens the bones.
Here are two movements Paleias recommends to build strong bones.
Up Like Smoke, Down Like a Feather
“Beat” Your Bones
This is the same technique martial artists use to prepare for more advanced techniques such as striking the “Iron Palm Bag,” a pillow-shaped pad filled with iron pellets, an exercise that eventually enables martial artists to break bricks with their bare hands. Paleias demonstrated this technique with several swift blows to the bag, but don’t try that at home—you could seriously injure your hand! Do the following gently to briskly, enough to be invigorating and pleasant, but not painful. Most people will do this right intuitively because it hurts to hit yourself too hard. Think of it as kind of a bouncy movement:
This is also a very invigorating pick-me-up when you’re tired.