Osteoporosis affects roughly 53 million people. It is a disease where the density and quality of the bone has been reduced, becoming "porous." As we age, our bone density decreases. The bones become fragile, increasing risk for fractures, mostly in the hip, spine, and wrists.
Specific risk factors can contribute to the likelihood of developing this disease. Gender shows a greater risk on women than men, mainly due to menopause. Age plays a big role that our bones become thinner and weaker as we get older. Family history may play a role if your parents have had a history of fractures and reduced bone mass. Ethnicity can be a factor as while and asian women seem to be at highest risk.
Even though the factors mentioned above are those that we cannot change, there are factors that we can. Most come from just our diet. Deficiencies in Vitamin D and calcium make you more prone. Eating disorders like anorexia put you at greater risk due to the lack of calories and nutrition. Excessive alcohol consumption and smoking increases these risks. Certain medications like glucocorticoids and anticonvulsants can lead to loss of bone density. Other factors include abnormal absence of sex hormones due to amenorrhea and menopause, as well as an inactive sedentary lifestyle.
Osteoporosis is silent. You may not know you have it until it's too late. A bone mineral density test is an important measure to identify osteoporosis. If diagnosed, a treatment program will include eating a balanced diet, incorporate exercise, and medications will all help slow or stop bone loss and possibly increase bone density.
I'm here to talk to you about the exercise component. Many people are discouraged from exercise, thinking they are fragile and may break a bone. On the contrary, the bones actually need increase stress to increase bone formation. There are certain exercises to avoid, including high impact, twisting motions and excessive forward flexion at the trunk (like sit ups and picking things off the floor). But let's discuss the exercises that you may be worried about, that are perfectly okay!
A variety of different equipment is great to use to load the bones, from dumbbells, resistance bands, or weight machines. Cardio equipment like ellipticals and treadmills at low impact are great to get bones strong and also increase cardiac endurance. Just like with all exercise, you must be cautious of proper body mechanics to avoid injury.
Guidelines state that 30-60 minutes of exercise, 2-3x per week of strength training is recommended. Exercises should include full body, 8-10 different exercises, roughly 3 sets of 10. Balance exercises should also be incorporated for fall prevention.
A list of great exercises to perform that load the hip and spine include:
-Sit to stands
-Single leg standing
-Walking on the treadmill
A study un 2015 was done in the UK testing the amount of stress on a bone but increasing the impact to single leg hopping. The study concluded that hopping for 2 minutes a day, or 5 sets of 10 hops shown positive outcomes in bone density, about 2.7% to 12% within a year.
Osteoporosis is common and its important to exercise and eat healthy at a younger age to help prevent and decrease bone loss in the future.