ONE of the health issues that may affect women as they age is osteoporosis, which occurs when more of your bone tissue is being removed from your bones (in a process called resorption) than is being created. This is physically evident in what appears to be shrinking over time, as well as poor posture.
Bone formation will peak somewhere around age 30, and after that the process of resorption starts happening quickly. In some people the affected bones become thin and fragile and prone to fracture, and many women will look to supplements to help.
But exercise can also help improve bone health — it's vital at every age for healthy bones, but is very important for treating and preventing osteoporosis.
Not only can exercise improve your bone health, it can also increase muscle strength, coordination, and balance, and lead to better overall health. The US National Institute of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center says like muscle, bone is living tissue that responds to exercise by becoming stronger.
“Young women and men who exercise regularly generally achieve greater peak bone mass (maximum bone density and strength) than those who do not. For most people, bone mass peaks during the third decade of life. After that time, we can begin to lose bone. Women and men older than age 20 can help prevent bone loss with regular exercise. Exercising can also help maintain muscle strength, coordination, and balance, which in turn helps to prevent falls and related fractures. This is especially important for older adults and people who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis,” it added.
The best bone building exercises are weight-bearing and resistance exercises that force you to work against gravity. They include walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, playing tennis, and dancing. Resistance exercises — such as lifting weights — can also strengthen bones.
Personal trainer Lennox Richards says you can achieve results with 30 minutes each day of these:
“This can include something as simple as walking on a flat path, to a small hill, or a bigger peak,” Richards said. “No doubt you will get a good workout and get your muscles moving.”
“Take things up a notch by increasing movement through jogging whether at a slow pace or faster. In fact, just five to 10 minutes at a moderate pace will get your blood flowing.”
“Leg-focused exercises like squats, lunges, planks, and box jumps can tone the legs fast, build muscle, and contribute to bone health,” Richards said.
“Imagine if you always took the stairs instead of using the elevator — your life would change,” Richards said. “Climbing the stairs will strengthen and tone your leg muscles, allowing the blood to flow more, and gives you more flexibility.”
Note that osteoporosis is often referred to as a silent disease because most people have no symptoms until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage. By the time symptoms such as back pain, loss of height, spinal deformity or an unexpected fracture appear, it's usually already in an advanced stage. It's important to take steps early to ensure that you're not affected, especially as you age.
The best way to manage your bone health is to prevent bone loss through lifestyle changes including exercise, as well as sun exposure, which triggers the production of vitamin D, which is essential for the production of healthy bones; not consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, coffee, and soda as they can decrease bone density; and supplementing your diet with calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins D and K.