Bone density and osteoporosis are issues we usually don’t think about until there’s a problem. And by that time, there’s little we can do to reverse the damage.
Research shows that 1 in 2 women, over the age of 50, will break a bone because of osteoporosis during her lifetime. In short, if it’s not you, another woman you know will be affected by this disease.
With statistics like this, you can’t afford to ignore a problem that, as a woman, you’re at high risk for. Luckily, there are several things you can do to improve your bone density and reduce your chance of getting osteoporosis.
But first, let’s look at some of the risk factors that make you susceptible to this condition.
Quick Facts on Osteoporosis
Bone loss happens over several years. And usually without any symptoms or warning signs. That’s because our bone density peaks when we hit our early 30s. Around our mid-30s, our bone density starts to fall. Once we hit menopause, when our estrogen levels drop, bone loss kicks into high gear.
You’re probably wondering what causes this. Is it a normal part of growing older? In a sense, it is. Bone is a living tissue that gets broken down and replaced. As we age, our bodies can’t keep up with the rate of production. So our bones become brittle and easy to break.
At the same time, we start experiencing muscle loss. This is sometimes due to lifestyle choices such as poor diet or lack of exercise. Muscle loss leads to less pull on our bones, meaning your bones aren’t being used/exercised as they should be and they’re getting more brittle.
On top of that, if we haven’t been exercising regularly, chances are we haven’t been paying proper attention to our diet, as well. The lack of key nutrients in our diets, especially calcium and vitamin D, further put us at risk for bone loss.
While the loss of bone density and risk of osteoporosis is somewhat out of our control, there are factors that we have the power the influence.
What to Focus on for Bone Density and Muscle Health
The good thing about our health is that it’s never too late to start taking better care of it. When it comes to improving our bone density and reducing our risk of osteoporosis, there are four areas we need to focus on:
- Diet and Nutrition
- Calcium and Vitamin D Intake
- Impact Exercise for Bone Health
- Resistance Training
By making these lifestyle choices, in addition to reducing our alcohol intake and not smoking, we give our bodies the support it needs to fight off the effects of aging.
Let’s look deeper into each of the above-mentioned lifestyle changes to get specific on what needs to be done for optimal bone and muscle health.
1. Diet and Nutrition
As you grow older, it gets more vital for you to pay attention to what you put in your body. To optimise your diet and nutrition, ensure you get sufficient protein, healthy fats, and lots of fruits and vegetables.
Protein is vital for cell and muscle repair. So ensure you’re getting enough protein to keep your body healthy and strong. How much is enough? 25 – 45 grams per meal is ideal to aim for as often as you can. That’s roughly a palm size serving of most protein sources, and is often easy enough to work out from the nutrition label of most foods with a bit of practise.
Now you probably know, fruits and vegetables are the cornerstone of a healthy diet. They give you the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants you need for optimal health and function. So this is an excellent time to include them regularly in each meal.
It’s also important that you eat healthy fats, such as salmon, eggs, olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds. These nutritional powerhouses support your joints, brain, and heart health. In addition, they help your body absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K.
How much do we need? Aim for 2 – 3 servings a day. Here’s a guide to serving a size that works well for most women (meaning you get a good amount of nutrients without more calories than you might need):
2. Calcium and Vitamin D
Vitamin D is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies people have. This deficiency can cause muscle pain, bone pain, a tingly sensation in hands or feet, and muscle weakness. When vitamin D deficiency becomes too low, it can cause your bones to become thin, brittle, or misshapen.
Women lose around 1% of bone mineral density per year after they hit menopause. That’s why as we get older, our calcium requirements increase. When we don’t get enough calcium, we can experience fatigue, poor oral health, muscle pain and spasm, and numbness and tingling in our fingers. If the deficiency gets severe, we could even have an abnormal heart rhythm.
The best option is to consume foods that are rich in calcium, such as dairy. As women enter menopause though, some become less tolerant of dairy. For women in that category, good non-dairy options include: white beans, seeds, almonds, kale, tinned salmon with bones, soybeans, and calcium-fortified bread or cereal.
Good sources of vitamin D include: salmon, herring and sardines, cod liver oil, canned tuna, egg yolk, mushrooms, and vitamin D-fortified food.
In consultation with your doctor, you may wish to consider taking calcium and vitamin D supplements. This may be a good idea if you’re a vegan or just unable to eat the daily minimum requirements.
3. Impact Exercise
Impact exercise for bone health refers to any type of weight-bearing exercise where some impact is going through your bones. Daily walking, or any other impact exercise you enjoy helps to boost your heart health and keep your bones strong.
Any amount of time you can spend doing these exercises is great. But try to aim for at least 15 to 30 minutes every day.
Below is a list of exercises you can consider incorporating into your daily routine:
- Boxing class
- Any other sport you enjoy
Pick an exercise that you enjoy and can commit to doing regularly. That will help you stick with it for the long haul.
4. Resistance Training
Resistance training is one of the bone strength exercises that we often avoid as women. We’re afraid we’re going to get bulky and resemble men. Not only has research proven that to be impossible, there are many benefits to adding resistance training to our exercise routines. One such benefit is that it helps us retain muscle and bone health as we grow older.
Strength training or lifting weights encourages our bodies to hold on to muscle. And those muscles put a healthy tension on our bones, stimulating them to stay dense and strong.
If you’ve never done resistance or strength training before, it can be a little intimidating to know where to start. So, to keep it simple and effective, keep the following tips in mind:
- Focus on exercises that work big muscle groups like squats, deadlifts, push-ups, bench presses, pull-downs, and rows.
- Add an exercise for balance to reduce your risk of falling or getting a fracture. Try exercises like step-ups or single-leg deadlifts.
- Aim to get stronger over time by doing more repetitions or lifting heavier weights.
- Target 2 – 4 strength or resistance training sessions per week with 3 – 6 exercises. This should be around 15 – 45 minutes per session.
Bone Density Gym Workout
If you have time to hit the gym for your weight lifting sessions, this is a good plan to follow. Just make sure to ask for guidance from a gym instructor or any health professional you’re working with if you’re unsure on exercise technique or suitability.
This workout ht hits all major muscle groups, a variety of movement patterns, and will get you working on your balance via the step ups.
Start with a warm-up set for each exercise, using a light/easy weight.
Then proceed to do 3 sets of 8 – 12 reps with heavier weights.
When you can do 3 sets of 12 repetitions, that’s your sign to increase the weights.
Bone Density Home Workout
If you’re unable to make it to the gym or prefer to work out from home, do 5 – 10 repetitions of the following exercises. Repeat the entire circuit 2 to 4 times.
- Glute Bridge
- Band seated row
- Elevated push-up
- 1 leg balance
- Squat jump
And if you’re low on time or motivation, try this 1-minute strength exercise routine. Just pick 1 – 2 exercises and aim to do 8 – 12 reps. Try to repeat this 3 times throughout your day. Every little bit of exercise adds up over time.
- Glute bridge
- Incline push up
- Single leg deadlift
- Shoulder press
- Band seated row
Bone Density: It’s Never too Late
Bone loss and osteoporosis are more common than we think. According to the Cleveland Clinic, around 200 million people are estimated to have osteoporosis throughout the world.
In their lifetime, 1 in 2 women and 1 in 4 men, over the age of 50, will have an osteoporosis-related fracture. Another 30% have low bone density which puts them at risk of developing osteoporosis.
It’s never too late to take ownership of your health. You can take many steps to improve your health and bone density, not to mention reduce your chances of getting osteoporosis.
However, if you need extra motivation to stay consistent in your fitness journey, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
You can get more information, ideas, and personalised help by checking out my Instagram page, @hayleyplummerpt, or sending me an email, email@example.com.
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