As we age, our bone mass decreases – potentially leading to osteoporosis. In fact, our bone mass peaks at around the age of 30 and after that it starts to decline. The rate of decline depends on a number of factors and women experience a more dramatic decline than men. There are a number of things that you can do to slow down the rate of bone loss – with an exercise program for prevention and treatment of osteoporosis being a key factor.
A number of factors determine your peak bone mass at around 30 and your bone mass as you get older. These determinants include:
- Nutrition: Research has shown that a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and low fat dairy products is best for your bones. This type of diet is rich in calcium and is a natural and important source of micronutrients such as magnesium, zinc, copper and boron – each of which is involved in the making of new bone. You should also limit your red meat intake.
- Hormonal Factors: Your hormonal balance can greatly affect the health of your bones and the maintenance of your bone mass. A pre-menopausal woman should monitor menstrual periods to make sure that they are regular since this is a leading indicator of hormonal balance.
- Your Genes: Genetics has a significant impact on your bone health. Look into your family history and see if there is a history of fractures. Did your mother (or grandmother) suffer a hip fracture?
- Exercise: The type of exercise program you follow can greatly affect the quality of your bones. Make sure your exercise program is designed to build and maintain bone structure. (More on this later in the post.)
What You Should Do
- You should try to follow a lifestyle that builds as much bone mass as possible. This will involve following a nutritional program that builds, not reduces, bone mass. Limiting coffee and alcohol and abstaining from smoking.
- You should pursue exercise activities that stress your bone structure in novel and unexpected ways.
- Women need to monitor hormonal balance because the onset of menopause has a dramatic affect on bone composition.
- You should also consult with your physician or pharmacist regarding any medications that are potentially bad for your bones. For example, Depo-Provera is a contraceptive injection that is known to lead to bone loss.
Four Principles of an Exercise Program for Osteoporosis Prevention and Treatment
Your exercise program for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis should be designed with your bone health in mind. The programs that I develop for my clients are based on four key principles:
- Bone Building is Site Specific: The effect of exercise on bone is specific to the location of the stresses caused by exercise. As a result, you should include exercises that stress different parts of your body at risk of potential fracture so that the bone tissue can be stimulated to build.
- High Mechanical Strains Affects Bone Health: The loads or stresses placed on your bones during exercise needs to be great enough to stimulate them. For example, if you can perform an exercise (using weights) with 15 repetitions and not cause muscle fatigue, you are probably not stressing the bone in that area enough to encourage bone building.
- Weight Bearing Exercises are More Important Than Non-Weight Bearing Exercises: Research has shown that weight bearing exercises are more important than non-weight bearing exercises for improving bone density. Any exercise where your bear weight through your skeleton is considered a weight bearing exercise. For example, brisk walking would be considered weight bearing whereas swimming is considered non-weight bearing.
- Keep Your Bones on Their Toes: Osteogenesis (the body’s natural process of laying down bone material) increases when the load on bone varies. If you repeat the same exercises over an over again, then your bones will learn to accommodate the strain and not build. However, if you mix up your activities and surprise your bones, then the cells in your body responsible for bone material will get busy building new bone.
Hopefully, you now appreciate that building and maintaining bone requires special attention to your nutrition, hormonal balance and exercise activity program. Your exercise program, in particular, requires special attention since certain exercise activities build bone better than other activities.
If you are interested in an exercise program for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, you can contact me with your questions.