Have you exercised your whole life and, unfortunately, still managed to get an osteoporosis diagnosis? It’s extraordinarily disappointing for those who’ve been doing everything “right”! It makes you wonder why some who are so active can end up with a diagnosis of low bone density (osteopenia) or osteoporosis. Some way or another, something interfered with their bone health.
Below are some causes of osteoporosis. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider to see if any apply to you.
But I wouldn’t give up on physical activity!
Scientists have found that exercise does make a difference for stronger bones, like Beth Dawson-Hughes, MD, medical professor and director of the Bone Metabolism Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University.
Bottom Line: Does Exercise Help Bones?
In the Nutrition Action Healthletter’s, “Breaking Bad” article (December 2014), Dr. Dawson Hughes was asked, “Does exercise help bones?”
She replied, “It’s hugely important—both aerobic and strength training. Walking or running—any exercise in an upright position—is more effective for bone than swimming. They’re all great exercises for muscle, but the ones that put a load on bones are better for the skeleton. Bicycling doesn’t count as weight-bearing, which is too bad, because it’s one of my favorites.” (Mine, too!)
Research Supports Physical Activity for Strong Bones
In the early 1990s, Dr. Miriam Nelson of Tufts University was the first to show that post-menopausal women’s bones could benefit from strength training. In a year long research study, “…the sedentary group lost strength, lean tissue, and bone density, became more sedentary, and gained body fat. By contrast, the group that strength-trained gained muscle, experienced improvements in balance and bone density at the hip and spine, and lost body fat.”—from StrongWomen.com
Dr. Nelson’s books, Strong Women Stay Young and Strong Women, Strong Bones are based on these findings. (A few of the exercises in her books may not be appropriate if you already have bone loss, but other than that, they are excellent books.)
Here’s a recent PubMed abstract, “Current Physical Activity Is Independently Associated With Cortical Bone Size and Bone Strength in Elderly Swedish Women.”
It showed that physical activity was associated with higher bone strength and a decrease in bone loss in the weight-bearing bones of 1013 women with an average age of 78. “…physical activity at old age may decrease cortical bone loss in weight-bearing bone in elderly women.”
Learn to Strength Train
Every little bit of exercise helps, no matter what your age, especially weight bearing and strength training! To learn how to strength train or make sure you’re training with bone-safe movements, check out my videos, Safe Strength Training for Osteoporosis Prevention and Resistance Band Training for Osteoporosis Prevention.
Stay Active to Avoid Falls and Fractures
Staying agile and fit helps with balance and fall prevention. Since 95% of hip fractures and 50% of vertebral fractures occur from a fall, it’s well worth the time to make physical activity a priority, whether or not you have osteoporosis. Plus, it will keep your heart healthy—if your heart doesn’t work well, nothing else will either. If you consistently strengthen your back muscles and always move without rounding your back, you’ll have a better chance of avoiding vertebral fractures.
Resources for You:
Here’s a good New York Times article to keep you moving: Closest Thing to a Wonder Drug? Try Exercise
“If exercise could be purchased in a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation.” —Dr. Robert N. Butler
And, everyone, inspire us! Tell us what you’re doing to stay active in the comment section below! Thanks so much!