According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about 54 million Americans have low bone mass or osteoporosis, and approximately one in two women (and up to one in four men age 50 and older) will break a bone as a result of the disease.
Osteoporosis is common. (Public figures including Gwenyth Paltrow and Sally Field have spoken about their bone density issues.) But osteoporosis is also serious, costly, and hard to see coming — since you can’t easily observe or feel your own bones weakening.
Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to prevent osteoporosis and improve the health of your bones. Exercise is one of them and one that our experts recommend.
Strengthen Your Bones with Strength Training
Bone strength, like muscle strength, requires weight. Strength training at least two to three times a week will accomplish this. You can:
- Work with free weights or elastic resistance bands
- Use weight machines at the gym
- Do floor exercises that require lifting your own body weight
Keep in mind that you may need to lift more weight than you think, though still never so much that you stress your bones. Harvard Health recommends beginning slowly, “with light weights and few repetitions,” so that you can build up from there. “Add one more repetition per week, until you can do a full set of eight to 12 reps.”
Weight Impact Improves Cardiovascular Impact, Too
Along with strength-training exercises, cardiovascular workouts can and do help, especially when weight impact is involved. Examples of what you might choose include:
- Power walking
- Low-impact aerobics
- Jumping rope
- Stair climbing
As the Mayo Clinic explains, “These types of exercises work directly on the bones in your legs, hips and lower spine to slow mineral loss.” But specialists also caution against abrupt movements that may cause stress. Choose activities that are slow and controlled, yet still engage your muscles.
Other aerobic activities, such as swimming, cycling, and using elliptical machines have many benefits, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, even if they don’t provide the weight-bearing load needed to help prevent mineral loss in your bones. Just also diversify your exercise routine with activities that include weights.
Where Do Flexibility and Balance Come In?
While these types of exercise don’t directly impact your bone composition, they can lower your risk of fractures in another way. By keeping your muscles supple and your whole body better coordinated, flexibility and balance routines can help prevent potentially devastating falls.
Simple exercises such as those recommended by the NHS, or tai-chi, may help with both your balance and your confidence. But be sure to honor your body’s limitations, seek guidance and supervision, and don’t push things too far too soon. Avoid stretches that flex your spine or cause you to bend excessively or uncomfortably at the waist, and maintain movements that are smooth and slow.
The American Heart Association also recommends warming up your body to promote blood flow a bit before any stretching. Walk or jog lightly for a few minutes, then stretch lightly prior to a cardiovascular workout. Or stretch at the conclusion of a strength training routine.
Above all, keep your own needs and abilities in mind. We understand that finding the right exercise plan depends a lot on the individual, but especially for those with osteoporosis. Reach out to us online or call at 770-929-9033 so that we can help craft the right regimen that will support a functional, fulfilling life for you.