Swimming has long been said to be a great alternative to running because you get the benefits of a cardiovascular workout without impact to your joints. But what if some impact is good for your bones? That's the conclusion of an article published by Geneva University Hospital in Switzerland. The study says the cells needed to maintain good bone density and function actually crave daily doses of impact. "Most of the exercises demonstrating a significant effect on bone-mass acquisition are those with impact, whereas exercises such as swimming or bicycling exert no significant effects," the article says.
This is valuable information for golfers, especially if you ride instead of walk when you play. Weak bones can lead to back pain, acute muscle soreness and even poor blood circulation.
Keep in mind that the "impact" your skeleton seeks doesn't have to be extreme. Bones can use a few big jolts or many tiny ones, says a study by the department of biomedical engineering at Stony Brook (N.Y.) University. A new exercise concept—called Juvent Dynamic Motion Therapy—was designed on the idea that tiny impacts are just as effective (and safe) as larger impacts when it comes to improving bone density and treating musculoskeletal issues. The Juvent 1000 looks like a huge scale, but users step on it for 20 minutes a day and get micro-impacts of less than one gram of force sent to their body.
The Juvent 1000 (pictured) has been approved for rehabilitation in the United States and for treating osteoporosis (brittle bones) in Europe, but the device isn't cheap ($3,500, juvent.com
"Bones do so much more than hold the body up," says Peter Simonson, president of Juvent Sports. "They produce our new blood, muscle, fat, cartilage, and help regulate our calcium, testosterone and insulin levels. And daily skeletal impact is a key component for health."
Can't justify a Juvent? No worries. Golfers can improve their skeletal health just by walking 18 holes. Your feet might be sore, but it's nice to know you're strengthening your bones.
Few swing-training aids are very portable, but the SuperFlex Golf Swing Kit ($70, superflexfitness.com
), introduced in January, is one that's lightweight and can be stored in your golf bag. It uses looped elastic bands to help improve golfers' swings. Here's how using it can fix a common issue—letting the left arm fold (aka the chicken wing).