Osteoporosis is the most common disease that affects the skeleton. You may also know of it as “brittle bone disease”. It affects the whole body and is characterised by low bone mass (bone density) and deterioration of bone tissue subsequently resulting in bone fragility and susceptibility to fracture. Osteoporosis affects women and men but is more common in women.
A few scary statistics; In the UK there are approximately three million people with Osteoporosis (10 million in American, with some 34 million more at risk) and it is responsible for 200,000 fractures every year! It affects a whopping 20% of women between 60 and 69 and the most common fractures occur in the hips, wrists and spinal bones. Shockingly, of the 60,000 individuals who suffer osteoporotic hip fractures every year 15% - 20% will die within a year from related causes!
80% of our bone health is in our genetics but there are other factors that can influence our chances of developing osteoporosis. Before explaining a few simple ways to prevent or reverse the effects of Osteoporosis, I would first like to list a few of the lifestyle decisions and choices which can be contributing factors to increasing your risk of developing the disease.
Women- A hysterectomy before the age of 45
- No menstrual periods for more than six months, due to over exercising or extreme dieting
- Eating disorders such as anorexia
- Alcohol abuse
- Heavy drinking and cigarette smoking
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Diet lacking in calcium and vitamin D (get some sun too!)
- Low body mass.
I have worked closely in the gym with several clients who suffer from Osteoporosis. I am very pleased to report that through carefully monitored, low impact, functional compound exercise prescription they all reported significant improvements in their strength, well-being and balance (important not to fall over with Osteoporosis). Also of significant note, when checked by their specialists, all my client’s bone density readings had improved (and continued to) resulting in increased bone density.
In preventing and reversing the effects of Osteoporosis it is firstly important to remember that as humans were are designed and built to move about, lifting, pushing, pulling and generally moving objects, and of course ourselves. The very movements and postures we assume encourage our bones to fulfil their functional and genetic potentials. In other words, weight baring movement based activities stimulate and increase gains in bone density therefore counteracting Osteoporosis.
Exercise prescription and advice- Regular weight baring exercise 20-40 minutes, 3 days a week (static lunges, squats, press ups)
- Low impact aerobic exercise 3-5 days a week – (Walking, swimming, cycling)
- Free weight training (with supervision) Controlled movements through a large but comfortable plain. 15-20 reps – low to moderate intensity.
- Exercise must be pain free
- Preferably go the gym at quieter times to avoid trip hazards!
- Functional training – replicate life movements that require multi joints and muscles to sync and work together, therefore improving overall body strength, awareness and overall body bone density. (Squat down, pick up a 3-5kg medicine ball, stand up pressing it above your head.- Replicates lifting something up of the floor and putting it into an overhead cupboard)
- Avoid crunches / sit-ups and any rapid trunk twisting.
- Provided you are supervised, safely destabilise your body on some exercises. This works wonders in increasing your balance and encouraging your muscles, joints and nervous system to work harder together, resulting in less chance of future falls and improving bone density.
- To reiterate, please make sure you are supervised by a professional who can instruct you, check your posture and keep you safe.
- Dairy i.e. Milk and Yoghurts
- Fortified juices, cereals, and oatmeal
- Beans and legumes
- Dark leafy greens, like broccoli and bok choy
- Salmon and sardines with bones
- Certain nuts, such as almonds
Vitamin D- Sunshine
- Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna
- Cod liver oil
- Fortified dairy products
- Fortified cereals
- Beef liver
- Fortified orange juice
In summary, if you stay active and eat a well-balanced natural diet you should significantly decrease the risk of Osteoporosis. If you already have it, start following these guidelines and you will be well on your way to an improved quality of life!
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