Are you doing all you can to preserve your bone health?

May 6, 2014 in Preventive Care  •  By Miles Varn
Woman doing weight training with female fitness coach

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) estimates that more than 40 million people in the U.S. either have or are at high risk of osteoporosis. Although this bone-weakening disease can develop at any time in a person’s life, it becomes more likely as you age. Once you have osteoporosis, you have to be vigilant about protecting yourself from fractures, which can cause permanent disability, make it impossible to live independently or, in some cases, lead to premature death.

Besides age, risk factors for osteoporosis include a thin and slender frame, Caucasian or Asian ancestry, deficiencies in calcium or vitamin D, low levels of sex hormones, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking and a lack of physical activity.

As research published in the journal Frontiers in Endocrinology pointed out, this last risk factor is modifiable.

Exercise is important early in life
Researchers from the University of Bristol conducted an experiment in which adolescent males and females wore activity monitors to measure the impact forces they endured while exercising. Results showed that the equivalent of a 10-minute mile or regular jumping from a height of 15 inches was powerful enough to stimulate the addition of bone mass around the hips. This underscores the importance of physical activity during adolescence and early adulthood, when the accumulation of bone mass is at its peak.

What may be cause for concern is the fact that people are less likely to be this physically active as they age into their 60s. Additionally, those who never made such high-impact exercise a habit may not be able to tolerate it as they age. However, physical activity is still important because, as NIAMS points out, it can maintain or modestly increase bone mass. Exercise can also improve balance and physical coordination, which are important to prevent accidental falls.

Weight-bearing exercises that force your body to work against gravity are the most effective for protecting the bone health. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • Brisk walking
  • Jogging
  • Stair-climbing
  • Dancing
  • Weight-training

Physical activity should only be considered one aspect of a larger regimen to prevent osteoporosis. Personalized healthcare can help you determine what the most appropriate measures are for you through the creation of a strategy targeted to your needs. Besides choosing the most suitable physical activity, tailoring such a plan may include supplements of calcium and vitamin D, both of which are essential to maintenance of strong bones. Additionally, your healthcare provider may prescribe bisphosphonates, which have been shown to increase bone mineral density in the femoral neck, lumbar spine and other bones, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

When several of these measures are taken together, protection of the bones through healthy living solutions is maximized.