3 Steps to Help Prevent Osteoporosis
If you are reading this and happen to be over the age of 35, your bone mass has already started declining. While the idea of aging isn’t exactly fun, gradual bone loss is normal. For women, however, this gradual bone loss coupled with hormonal changes during menopause often leads to osteoporosis, a common disease where bones become very brittle and likely to break. It’s so common, in fact, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, that one in two women over 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis.
The good news is that natural loss of bone tissue and density is something that you can proactively manage. For all of my clients, I recommend taking small preventative steps and practicing a few helpful exercises to promote bone strength, regardless of whether they have been diagnosed with osteoporosis. Here are a few great ways you can commit to your bone health:
- Brush up on your medical history.
The first step to preventing osteoporosis is to familiarize yourself with your family’s medical history. Ask about your family’s bone health and any history of inflammation. If you have family members with osteoporosis, you have an increased risk of developing it yourself and can speak to a medical professional about options like taking supplements to increase absorption of vitamin D, which helps your intestines absorb calcium from food.
- Practice weight-bearing exercises.
You can help prevent and reduce pain from osteoporosis by practicing weight-bearing exercises. These exercises will help to stimulate bone growth and tissue hydration by engaging your tendons, ligaments and muscles. When practicing the exercises below, chose a free weight you’re comfortable using for multiple repetitions. Be sure to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
Standing Squat Begin with your toes facing forward and do 5 to 10 squats. Next, turn your toes slightly inward and do another 5 to 10 squats. As long as you have no pain, face your toes slight outward and try a third set of 5 to 10 squats. This exercise includes a rotation component throughout the lower pelvic girdle that will help build strength throughout your lower limbs.
Sitting arm swing Begin by sitting in a chair, holding free weights. Gently start swinging both arms up and down simultaneously to chest level height for 5 to 10 reps. Next, carefully lift both arms and swing them overhead and side to side for the same amount of time. Finally, swing both arms side to side at shoulder level as you twist your body to look behind you in each direction. This three-dimensional rotation will stimulate the core, spine and hips.
- Get involved in group exercise.
If you, a family member or friend has osteoporosis, you can look to get involved in community exercise activities. Community classes are sometimes designed to target different ailments like osteoporosis. Chair-based classes and water aerobics, for example, can be great components to exercise and help build bone strength. Another benefit of these classes is that they focus on methods of bone strengthening while promoting less joint impact.
Statistics about osteoporosis can be intimidating, but even simple lifestyle changes can lead to stronger bone density and help prevent loss of bone tissue. Understanding your medical history is an important first step in gauging if you’re at risk of developing osteoporosis. From there, you can work to tailor your exercise routine to stimulate bone growth and protect bone health while avoiding injury. Regardless of whether you have already experienced symptoms of osteoporosis, are at risk due to family history or simply want to be proactive about your health, making an active effort to commit to bone health will help you increase bone strength and alleviate pain further down the road.
Christina is a Senior Physical Therapist and Women’s Health Manager for Athletico Physical Therapy in Park Ridge, IL. She received her Degree in Physical Therapy from Rosalind Franklin University in 1990. She is a Fellow of Applied Functional Science, certified in FMR as a graduate from the Gray Institute. Christina specializes in the evaluation and treatment of the female client including pregnancy, incontinence/pelvic floor dysfunction and orthopedics/sports related injuries. She developed the Female Chain Reaction Course for the Gray Institute and continues to educate internationally for the Gray Institute, APTA, IDEA Health and Fitness Association and SCW Fitness, as well as many other public and private organizations.