Osteoporosis is a condition that makes bones more brittle and prone to fracture. Although osteoporosis can affect men and younger people, post-menopausal women are most at risk. One of the best ways to help maintain healthy bones is to exercise regularly – which encourages the bones to absorb calcium and other mineral salts that keep bones strong.
Weight-bearing and weight-resisted exercises are best for strengthening bones and muscles; as well as helping to keep bones in good health and may also reduce the likelihood of falls as you age. Weight-bearing exercises are those where your body is supporting its weight, such as walking or housework or carrying groceries. A weight-resisted exercise involves pushing or pulling against an additional weight, like a dumbbell or barbell or resistance equipment in a gym.
The younger you start, the better
Anyone can benefit from weight training, but younger women who trained using weights were confirmed to have stronger bones later in life, this essentially means that you can bank bone when you’re younger to help prevent fractures later in life – a kind of insurance scheme for your body. A lifetime of active living not only protects your bones but also keeps your heart healthy and may protect you from other diseases such as cancer and type two diabetes.
But starting at any age will help
Everyone can benefit from increased activity levels. Studies have shown that people already diagnosed with osteoporosis can improve their bone health significantly through weight-bearing exercises. The key is getting good advice on how to move well and self-manage.
Some more benefits
Strong muscles burn more calories, so if you need to control your bodyweight, lifting weights can help. It also helps with balance and can help you to regulate your sleep patterns.
‘I don’t want to look muscled’
It takes women a lot of heavy weight lifting, and sometimes the use of controlled substances like steroids and hormones, to achieve the physique of the heavily muscled powerlifter. Women don’t typically have enough testosterone in their bodies to develop bulging muscles, but can, with regular, moderate training achieve lean, toned and strong muscles.
‘I hate gyms’
No problem. There are plenty of other exercises you can do that don’t involve a visit to the gym: dancing, yoga, tennis, pilates, walking, running, gardening and even housework count – all you are aiming to do is increase your heart rate and make yourself feel a little warmer.
You can do it in several short blocks of 15 minutes or more. Aim for at least a total of 150 minutes per week, spread over at least 5 days for the best results – if you’re unused to exercise, start slowly and build up to this target.
‘I don’t know where to start’
This is where your friendly local osteopath can help. They can screen you for any health concerns that might affect your ability to exercise, help to resolve any injuries or pain that might be holding you back and advise you on what exercises might suit your goals best.
Many can teach you how to exercise correctly, thus avoiding injuries and then how to gradually build up your exercises as your ability and fitness levels improve.