by Lori Heck
If you are a female reading this article, you could be the 1 out of every 2 women who may suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture at some point in her life. For men, you may be the 1 in 8 statistic. Though my focus of this article is geared toward women and bone health (women are 4 times more likely to have osteoporosis), men must pay attention as well. Approximately 28 million Americans are affected by osteoporosis!
The National Foundation of Osteoporosis defines osteoporosis as ‘a disease characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue, which leads to bone fragility and increased risk of fracture.’ This is a preventable and manageable disease provided action is taken through weight-bearing and strength training exercises coupled with proper nutrition and supplementation. Weight bearing exercise is any activity that is done on your feet and causes your body to work against gravity such as walking, jogging, or a group exercise class (swimming and biking would not be considered weight bearing, though great for heart health). Strength training exercises would be the use of dumbbells, bands, bodyweight, or resistance machines to work both your bones and muscles. Both of these types of activities are going to cause impact to the skeleton (bones), which in turn breaks bone down so it can rebuild/remodel to become more dense.
In a woman’s life there are two crucial times that taking action are important. The best time period to begin is between the ages of 9-14, and ideally, she would continue to take action for her entire lifespan. It is during this age range (pubertal growth spurt) that the more impact on the skeleton the most bone building benefit will occur. By the age of 20, women have reached 98% of their bone mass. The goal after age 20 is to focus holding on to that bone mass through continued exercise and proper nutrition.
The next crucial marker on the timeline to begin weight-bearing and strength training exercise to help prevent the onset or slow the process of low bone mass, is the period just before menopause (average woman begins menopause at age 50). Women can lose up to 20% bone mass 5-8 years after her menstrual cycle begins. For women who are in their 50’s and older and have not participated in any type of weight-bearing and strength-training activity- it is NOT too late! In fact, a study that was done at Tufts University by physiologist Miriam Nelson, showed that postmenopausal women that performed two 40-minute strength training sessions per week for 1 year gained 1% in bone density, while women in a sedentary control group lost 2%-SCARY! You will want to speak with and be cleared by your physician, plus, meet with and/or hire a certified personal trainer before adhering to an exercise program. A simple twist or misaligned movement for someone who has osteoporosis could lead to a fracture if movement is performed incorrectly. The certified trainer will also be able to inform you of the exercises that are going to be most beneficial for you.
Proper nutrients also play a vital role in the prevention or maintenance of the disease. John Mamana, Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at Georgetown University and founder of American Health Sciences, emphasizes the importance of calcium and vitamin D. Bone is living tissue that goes through various processes including building and remodeling- calcium and vitamin D are essential nutrients to help with those processes. Different age groups require different amounts of adequate limits (so be sure to check with your physician). When speaking of calcium, youth ages 9-18 should consume approximately 1300mg, adults 19-50yrs 1,000mg and individuals 51yrs+ 1200mg. Calcium can be found in dairy products, vegetables and many foods are now fortified with calcium. Vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption in the intestines. In the kidneys it is converted to a steroid hormone needed for bone development in children and bone maintenance in adults. Vitamin D can be found in dairy products, fish, eggs and sunlight. Again, different amounts are required for different age groups- for those 6 months and older approximately 400IU, and for the elderly approximately 600IU, unless your physician states otherwise.
The key to overall health and bone health is to get your child active and eating healthy so to set a good habit for later in life. As an adult, get started if you haven’t and be sure to incorporate both cardiovascular and strength training exercises. For those who have elderly parents- learn about their current health status, and if cleared by a physician, encourage them to be or become active! Take control of your health!
* All persons should contact their physician before beginning an exercise program, especially if you have any condition related to osteoporosis. If cleared, be sure to speak with a certified personal trainer to learn about what exercises/movements should be avoided.
Lori Heck, Owner of ASPIRE Personal Training & NASM-CPT. Lori can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 715-271-9678