Osteoporosis happens when there is too much bone loss. The human skeleton is made up of 206 bones and without them the human body would not have the ability to sit, stand, or move. Bones are made of two essential minerals calcium and phosphorus. In the center of bones is marrow that produces blood cells. Throughout life the body is constantly losing old bone while making new bone. With age the rate of formation of new bone decreases. By midlife the rate of bone loss increases especially for menopausal women. Osteopenia is determined when a bone density test is low, but not low enough to have Osteoporosis. It is possible for someone to never have had normal bone density based on genetics, size, or certain diseases. It is only after a second bone density test when it will be determine whether or not the body is actually losing bone.
If someone has been told that their bone density test is low it is time to take the necessary steps to improve your bone health. Avoiding excessive alcohol and not smoking is recommended. Eating healthy and limiting the amount of caffeine is also important for healthy bones. Calcium in the amount of 1,000 to 1,200 mg and Vitamin D between 400-2,000 IU’s is the recommended amount. Supplements should be taken as directed by a health care provider.
Exercise is a key ingredient for keeping bones strong and healthy. Starting an exercise program can increase your muscle strength, improve your balance and helps avoid falls. Bones get stronger and harder when you challenge them by impact. There are two types of exercises that are beneficial for building bone and improving bone density. These are weight-bearing exercises and muscle strengthening exercises. Weight bearing exercises are exercises that you perform against gravity when you are upright. They can be high or low impact activities. High impact exercises should not be perform by someone who has been diagnosed with osteoporosis and are at high risk for fractures. Low impact exercises would be more suitable. Physical activity will help improve and maintain good posture to limit the amount of kyphosis. One of the most important things about body mechanics and posture is alignment. Alignment refers to how the head, shoulders, spine, hips, knees and ankles relate and line up with each other. Proper alignment of the body puts less stress on the spine and helps you have good posture.
Dancing, jogging/running, tennis, hiking, jump roping are examples of high impact activities. Elliptical, stair master, walking on treadmill or outside would be examples of low impact exercises. Strengthening exercises can be done by lifting weight, using resistance bands, weight machines or using your own body weight. Yoga and Pilates can help improve balance, strength, and flexibility. Other activities that are good for bone health are swimming, bicycling indoors/outdoors, water aerobics, deep water walking, and stretching exercises. Someone with osteoporosis should be instructed by a knowledgeable provider, since some positions may not be safe to perform. Forward head posture, bending forward from the waist, twisting to the point of strain, anything that causes you to reach too far, are examples of unsafe movements for someone with osteoporosis. Sit ups should be avoided when you have osteoporosis.
It’s never too late to start exercising. It is important at a young age to begin instilling health habits that will keep bones healthy throughout your life time. Exercise creates a sense of well-being.
by: Rita Zimmermann, LPTA/CLT