Exercise Your Way to Stronger Bones
Any age is the right age to put osteoporosis on your health radar and start strengthening your bones.
We worry about our heart health. We’re mindful of what we put in our bodies. We exercise our muscles and safeguard against breast cancer with self-checks. But how much thought do we give to our bone health?
Bone is living tissue. It’s constantly being rebuilt and absorbed by the body. And as we age we lose more bone than we replace, which results in weakened bones and can lead to osteoporosis.
What Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease of the bone that occurs when you lose bone density and mass or simply do not make enough bone. Your bones become weak as a result and susceptible to breaks, fractures and falls. In extreme cases simply coughing or bumping into a piece of furniture could cause a fracture.
If you look at healthy bone tissue under a microscope, parts of the bone have a honeycomb-like appearance. As bone tissue loses density and osteoporosis sets in, the holes and spaces become wider and larger, causing the bone to become weaker and more likely to break.
Who Is at Risk?
About 52 million Americans have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis. It affects women and men of all ages, but especially white and Asian women post-menopause. In fact, post-menopausal women can lose 1 percent to 2 percent of their bone mass annually, and up to 20 percent within five to seven years after menopause.
Breaking a bone is often the first sign that you have osteoporosis, or you may notice that you are getting shorter or your upper back is curving forward. If you are experiencing these symptoms, consult your doctor immediately.
The good news is that no matter your age, you can establish habits now to improve the health of your bones.
- Get enough calcium and vitamin D
- Eat foods that are good for bone health, such as fruits and vegetables
- Avoid smoking and limit alcohol consumption
- Engage in weight-bearing exercise at least three times a week
Weight-bearing exercise, or strength training, is key. Because bones are living tissue, they become stronger when impact or extra strain is placed on them — just like muscles. The good news is you can benefit from strength training at any age, and there are many options to help you reap the benefits:
- Lifting weights
- Using elastic exercise bands
- Weight machines
- Lifting your own body weight
- Functional movements, such as standing and rising up on your toes
As always, it is important to check with your healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise program.
- Results from a study conducted at Tufts University showed that strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk for fractures among women aged 50 to70.
- A 12-month study conducted on postmenopausal women at Tufts demonstrated 1 percent gains in hip and spine bone density, 75 percent increases in strength and 13 percent increases in dynamic balance with just two days per week of progressive strength training.
Osteoporosis is not inevitable. Take care of your bones — at any age — and they’ll take care of you.