Are You Making These 9 Walking Mistakes That May Be Hurting Bones? Find Out Here - Save Our Bones

Spring is soon approaching the Northern Hemisphere, and I’m sure everyone is eager to get outside. A great way to enjoy the outdoors and build your bones is to go for a walk. In fact, walking is recommended in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program as a bone-healthy, weight-bearing exercise that makes an excellent baseline for targeted bone density exercises.

But you may not know that there’s a difference between walking to improve your bone health or just taking a casual stroll. So today I’m going to share with you how to get the most out of your bone-building walks by avoiding nine common mistakes.

I’d like to start with a very basic premise: setting goals.

1. Not Challenging Yourself

Walking is certainly fun and pleasurable, and that’s one of the healthy things about it. After all, regular exercise is a key factor in improving mood, especially when it’s done outdoors in mood-boosting sunshine. Still, it pays to take your walks seriously by setting goals and challenging yourself.

For example, do you know how many minutes it takes you to walk a mile? Make it a goal to find out! Then challenge yourself to improve your time.

Another way to increase the challenge level of your walks is to include hills and obstacles, as in the next tip.

2. Staying On Flat Ground

In Florida where I live, most of the roads and walking areas are flat. But there are plenty of curbs, steps, and other variations along the way if I watch for them.

So when you take your walks, rather than avoiding hills and climbs, seek them out. Step on and off the curb, go ahead and climb that hill or slope, and hop up and down steps. These “extras” engage the muscles of the buttocks and legs more closely, and challenge your ankle, knee, and hip joints. Walking up and down hills in particular helps stretch muscles as well, especially the quads at the top of the thigh and the calf muscles.

3. Wearing Heavy Clothing

When spring is just beginning, the weather can be unpredictable, so it’s tempting to pile on thick layers topped off with a heavy coat. While layers are good, thick ones can be a mistake. For one thing, a thick coat is nearly impossible to tie around your waist. In addition, too-thick clothing can make you hot and sweaty before your walk is through, cutting your walking time short.

The answer to this dilemma? Dress in several light layers – such as a sleeveless shirt, tee shirt, and long-sleeved shirt – and step outside before you start your walk. If you feel a bit chilly after standing outside for a few minutes, then you’ve got the right amount of clothing on. You’ll warm up as you walk, but not too quickly; and you can shed the top layer if necessary.

There is another reason not to get too cozy before walking – walking in chilly air may help burn more fat by stimulating the conversion of unhealthy “white fat” to a type of fat known as “brown/beige fat.” The latter type of fat actually helps burn calories to keep you warm, according to research.1

4. Losing Focus

When I’m out for a walk by myself, my mind tends to wander. That sort of unbridled thought is actually healthy in the right context; but it’s all-too-easy to let your mind wander so much that you forget one of the tasks at hand, which is to foster your mind-body connection in order to improve coordination, which helps prevent falls.

To do this, make it a point to be aware of your body as you walk. Pay attention to your arms, shoulders, and core – elbows should be bent (more on this in a moment), shoulders should be relaxed, and your core engaged.

In addition, consider your breathing. Make sure you’re taking deep, alkalizing breaths at an appropriate pace (about two steps per inhalation and three or four steps per exhalation). This prevents shallow breathing, promotes body alkalinity, and also causes you to pay attention to whether or not your breathing is labored or uncomfortable.

5. Not Including The Upper Body

Walking can and should be a whole-body exercise. Of course your legs and lower body are involved, but don’t forget your upper body. As mentioned earlier, your core should be engaged; to do this, lightly pull your belly button inward, making sure it does not interfere with your breathing. Take care not to arch your back forward or lean back too much; these movements stretch and disengage the core muscles. Instead, lean a bit forward at the hips to keep those midriff muscles working.

6. Letting Your Arms “Flop”

If you’re practicing #4 and #5 above, you’re less likely to make this mistake. Nonetheless, to get the most out of your walks, it’s important to ensure that your arms are not flopping about. Instead, move them naturally, with your right arm coming forward at the same time as your left foot steps forward, and vice versa. Bend your elbows at an approximate 90-degree angle, relaxing your shoulders. This also helps tone your arms, and is even more effective if you wear wrist weights.

7. Letting Your Dog Pull On The Leash

It’s so much fun to take your dog along on walks. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why some people choose to get a dog – it motivates them to take several daily walks. The problem is, some dogs rush out ahead of their humans, pulling hard on the leash and upsetting the body coordination described above. The tugging can continue for the whole walk if you let it.

Instead, hold the leash the way dog trainers recommend – place the end of the leash in your right hand, let the leash cross your body and have your dog on your left side. In your left hand, hold the leash about halfway down. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to teach your dog the “heel” command as well, so he or she knows to stay beside your left leg. Take along some healthful dog treats for motivation!

8. Not Varying Your Pace

Instead of keeping up one steady pace, walk at intervals for a more effective workout. For example, try walking at a brisk, fast pace for three minutes followed by three minutes at a slower pace. Repeat these intervals for the entire walk. Try working intervals into your walks at least twice a week.

Research shows that walking in intervals stabilizes blood sugar,2 which is an important and often-overlooked aspect of bone health. A randomized, controlled trial published in The Diabetes Journals concludes that:

“…interval walking is superior to energy expenditure–matched continuous walking for improving physical fitness, body composition, and glycemic control.”2

9. Walking Only Indoors

Using the treadmill at the gym is certainly better than sitting. But what you may not know is that confining your walks to the indoors means you’re losing out on the many benefits of exercising in a natural setting. Seek out a “green” setting for your walks wherever and whenever you can, adding sun exposure and natural surroundings that boost mood and release tension.3

In addition, natural settings are more likely to include obstacles and uneven terrain, giving your muscles an extra workout that’s especially beneficial for ankles, knees, and hips. These are vulnerable areas that need extra stress via targeted exercise in order to build up fracture-preventing bone density.

The hips are of particular concern in the osteoporosis and osteopenia community. Hip fractures can be very painful and slow to heal, and recovery is often incomplete. Recent research offers hope for walkers, and shows that regular walking can actually reduce hip fracture risk.

Study Reveals The Importance Of Walking To Prevent Hip Fracture

Unlike most studies on bone strength, this comprehensive analysis focused on men – almost 36,000 of them – aged 50 to 75 (at the start of the study) over a 24-year period. After controlling for factors such as car accidents and traumatic injury, researchers found that the men who walked for four hours or more per week had a 43 percent lower risk of fracturing their hip due to a fall.4

Interestingly, the men who walked at a brisk pace, as described in #8 above, had an even lower fracture risk of 62 percent. We can logically infer from this study that women can also benefit from walking.

Yet further research also points to the need for targeted exercise in addition to walking for more comprehensive fracture prevention.

Targeted Exercise Augments Regular Walking

Getting the most out of your walks is one way to boost the effectiveness of this enjoyable, weight-bearing activity. But as research has shown, walking alone is simply not enough to build bone density in key areas of the skeleton.

Your bones need the stimulation of targeted stress in order to build and strengthen, which can easily be achieved with the Densercise™ Epidensity Training System. The 52 moves in Densercise™ can be done at home without any special equipment, and many of them can be done outdoors.

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Because Densercise™ takes just 15 minutes a day, three days a week, it’s easy to add it to your regular exercise or walking regimen. Densercise™ is the only exercise program that is specifically designed to improve bone density, and it focuses on key areas like the spine, hips, wrists, and ankles.

With Densercise™ as an addition to your walks, you know that your fitness routine includes everything that’s been scientifically shown to be good for your bones!

Till next time,


1 Kern, Philip A., et al. “The Effects of Temperature and Seasons on Subcutaneous White Adipose Tissue in Humans: Evidence for Thermogenic Gene Induction.” October 9, 2014. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Volume 99, issue 12. Web.

2 Karstoft, Kristian, MD., et al. “The Effects of Free-Living Interval-Walking Training on Glycemic Control, Body Composition, and Physical Fitness in Type 2 Diabetic Patients: A randomized, controlled trial.” September 21, 2012. Volume 36, no. 2, pages 228-236. DOI: 10.2337/dc12-0658. Web.

3 Ryan, Richard M., et al. “Vitalizing effects of being outdoors and in nature.” Journal of Environmental Psychology. November 2009. 30(2010) 159-68. PDF.

4 Bassey, Joan E., “Exercise for prevention of osteoporotic fracture.” 2001. Age and Ageing. 30-S4: 29-31. PDF.

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Comments on this article are closed.

  1. Ita

    Thank you, Ita.

  2. Miggs

    I have paid for the digital, but still haven’t received it! Please advise… Thanx

  3. Georgina

    Thank you Vivian for all your advice.

  4. kaleem mohd

    Good article…The ankles are the first joints in the body to make contact with the ground. If the muscles surrounding the joint are weak, other joints in the body will suffer. To reduce or prevent ankle injuries, strengthening exercises are important. we are also posting some interesting articles on our blog…

  5. Susan

    Despite arthritis , I do walk my dog but it’s not enough cardio. We’re thinking of getting an elliptical because it seems easier on my joints. What do you think of them? I also have your Dancersize but I need to motivate myself with that because of my joint and tendon issues. I need to be careful I don’t twist my knees or wrists, etc.

    • Gael

      Get a Gazelle glider (Walmart/ I have had one for 20 yrs which I pulled out of basement 2 years ago. I have a very bad kyphosis and flat feet which are almost useless. I am now able to work out for 30 minutes on this with music, and walk outside. No joint pain, and easy gliding. I have arthritis and fibro. Wishing you well.

  6. joyce

    I have your hard copy of your program and have used it for about a 2 years. I certainly do feel much better overall-yet I need to lose about 20 lbs. I have tried to eat less calories, yet it is just very slow. Several friends have been used and are still using the Atkins Diet. They have lost very much weight, and feel very great-even though the rather strict approach consisting of mostly protein, salads, vegetables, and small amounts of fruits and nuts. What do you feel about this type of diet. Also on this diet you do not feel hungry and no cravings . Thanks much,

    • Kathleen

      Joyce – you may want to check out the Wheat Belly diet. Books available at your local book stores.

  7. Jan S.

    I have your hard copy of your program and have used it for about a 2 years. I certainly do feel much better overall-yet I need to lose about 20 lbs. I have tried to eat less calories, yet it is just very slow. Several friends have been used and are still using the Atkins Diet. They have lost very much of weight, and feel very great-even though the rather strict approach consisting of mostly protein, salads, vegetables, and small amounts of fruits and nuts. What do you feel about this type of diet. Also on this diet you do not feel hungry and no cravings . Thanks much, Jan

  8. Linda

    Vivian, why do you only answer some of the questions? It truly would be nice if you answered all the questions.

  9. Babs Robertson

    I have trouble walking long distance due to a rod i have in my right lower leg causing me pain when i walk and has slowed me down when i try to speed up causes more pain.

  10. Marlene Villar

    Hello Vivian,
    I agree with everything you shared on this excellent
    article. I enjoy walking but, I tend to over dress due
    to unpredictable weather condition where I live.
    Thank you very much for a timely reminder.
    Have a wonderful day. Marlene

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Yes, it’s a common error, Marlene. 🙂 Perhaps you can try walking in lighter clothing!

  11. Barbara Leahy

    I would like the densercise manual in hard copy
    Is this $27 offer for digital only?

    • Customer Support

      Hi Barbara and Kathy,

      Thanks for your interest in Densercise! At this time, it is only available as a digital item; there are no hard copies available. Densercise is printable, however. 🙂

    • Kathy Parham

      I, too, would like a hard copy. Is it available?

      • lucille montes

        how do I get the rest of my downloads after I have paid for them?

        • Customer Support

          Hi Lucille,
          Please check your e-mail for a message from customer support. We’ll be glad to help you with the downloads and make sure you have everything you’ve paid for. 🙂

  12. Patricia Weber

    I’ve read/heard that weighted vests are also helpful. Do you know or have information about this?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Hi Patricia,

      Wearing weighted vests while walking can be a great addition to a weight-bearing exercise program. 🙂

  13. Lynda Domenech

    Can you tell me if natural progesterone cream is helpful in preventing osteoporosis? I have had breast cancer and am taking Letrozole which, unfortunately, leaches calcium from the bones and have also been diagnosed with osteoporosis. My calcium levels are very poor owing to the removal many years ago of my thyroid and parathyroid glands due to thyroid cancer. I find your articles very inspiring and would be glad of your opinion. Kindest regards

  14. Carole Markowitz

    Is bio sil helpful to make bones stronger?

  15. Florence

    I have already had a hip fracture and 2 surgeries. I am 69 and have a 9 year old 7 lb dog that I love, she is my little girl. My hip is giving me a lot of trouble in the past month there has been extra pain and I have an appointment in a week to see the surgeon. I was doing some exercises that may have aggravated this. I have in addition much I have to do in my yard and my home. Monday and Today I was able to get back in the pool and do laps. This seems to be a helpful exercise for me. I used to swim faster and do more laps before the fracture and surgeries now I do less laps, 20 and not 30 like I used to, and right now less time 20-25 or 26 minutes instead of 1/2 hour.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      I am so sorry to hear about your hip fractures, Florence, but I am more inspired by your can-do attitude and significant progress in exercise!

  16. Carol

    I love walking in our skyways and try to almost everyday. Sometimes I walk what I call zigzag walking and try not to make it too obvious. I will widen some of my steps to the side as I go forward and then walk straight for awhile and then widen my steps again to the other side. I love to do this especially when there is not too many people around and it is easier for me to do. Thanks for all your wonderful information.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      This is another great idea, Carol – thanks for sharing. Side-stepping is a very important aspect of balance. After all, stepping around objects or trying to catch yourself from falling involves side-stepping, and the more coordinated you are, the more likely you are to stay upright. 🙂

  17. Bjarne Østergaard

    Consider adding Walking Poles, like in Nordic Walking. Use the poles like you would while skiing, pushing yourself forward, with force, using arms and shoulders. You then create a (natural) twist in the spine that exercise your core muscles. You improve balance because you always have a foot and a pole on the ground, so you can increase speed safely. And it will tighten and strengthen floppy upper arms, give a firmer hand grip and put a smile on your face 🙂

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Great idea, Bjarne!

      • Carla riffel

        Would this twisting with poles be safe with compression fractures in the thoracic spine? Thanks

        • Bjarne Østergaard

          I’m not a doctor !
          1) Rely on your doctors advice .
          2) Rely and follow Vivian’s advice.
          3) Healing a fracture, you should exercise (without pain) to rebuild a strong bonematrix, good blood supply and strong muscles around the former fracture thus cushioning the other (fragile) vertebrae. “No pain No gain” is not true as a convalecent. Stay active: Take a walk!

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