You wouldn't think all the jumping that high-impact exercise entails would help your bones and cartilage. But if you did think it, you'd be right.
A new Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that doing high-impact jumping exercises three times a week for 55 minutes strengthens knee cartilage in women who have osteoarthritis (wear and tear of bone cartilage that often begins after menopause). "High-impact movements have been thought to harm the cartilage and accelerate the progression of osteoarthritis," says study author Jarmo Koli. "But our research supports the view that cartilage benefits from gliding with compression, since the knee glides in front of the femur bone during the kinds of exercises we studied."
But don't wait until you hit menopause to start thinking about your skeletal system. Research shows that women's bones fully develop by their early 20s, meaning the chances of really packing on bone mass when you're well into your 40s is slim.
Translation: Take action before it's too late. To strengthen your cartilage and the bones it supports, California-based personal trainer Jamie Sullivan recommends doing HIIT at least three to four times a week. "Jump rope is great because it puts a lot of stress on your lower body," he says. Do it as a warm-up, and then try these eight HIIT moves you can do right at home. Stronger bones start now.