Exercising to Prevent Osteoporosis
We all know that lifting weights makes you stronger. You’ve probably even noticed your strength improving after only a few weeks at Get Fit Strength and Conditioning. Feeling strong is incredible. It makes it easier to do daily activities, it positively impacts your mental health and increases your confidence. Did you know that strong muscles also lead to strong bones? Just add that to the list of all the amazing things that strength training and increasing your muscle mass does for your body. By having stronger bones, you can help minimize the risk of fracture due to osteoporosis.
While osteoporosis is not the most glamorous of topics, it deserves our attention. Osteoporosis, a bone-weakening disorder, is estimated to cause 1.5 million fractures annually in the United States in people aged 50 and older. There are many factors conspiring against you that contribute to osteoporosis: age-related changes, inactivity, and not getting enough nutrients in your diet are the top three culprits that lead to a decline in bone mass. Your bone density declines by approximately 1% every year after you turn 40 years old. As your bone mass declines, your bones become more fragile and are susceptible to fracture. Ultimately, injuries you experience from osteoporosis can severely impair your mobility and independence.
While the numbers are terrifying, don’t frantically turn to Google to start diagnosing yourself. First of all, if you are already coming to Get Fit Strength and Conditioning then you are taking a huge step in preventing or delaying osteoporosis. Physical activity, particularly muscle-strengthening and impact exercises, are incredibly beneficial for bone health. While muscle-strengthening and impact exercises help strengthen your bones, other types of movement are designed to improve your balance — which can help prevent falls. Here is a guide to the type of movements you should be incorporating to prevent or delay osteoporosis:
Weight-bearing exercises are types of movement that force your body to work against gravity. Most impact exercises like burpees, running, dancing, jumping rope, etc. are considered weight-bearing exercises. Similar to how weight lifting puts stress on your muscles and causes your muscle fibers to regrow, weight-bearing exercises provide mechanical stimuli to your bones. The pushing and tugging that occurs during impact activities nudges your bone-forming cells into action, which creates stronger, denser bones. So next time you are cursing the coach when you see burpees on the board, remember that your bones will benefit from them even if you despise the movement.
While weight-bearing exercises are key to improving bone density, it is important to do the movements that work best for your body. Talk with a coach at Get Fit Strength and Conditioning if you want to add in more impact exercises, but have injuries that you need to work around. There are always alternate ways to do an exercise!
Muscle-Strengthening Exercises work like the weight-bearing exercises in that they provide stress to your bones to stimulate growth. Large movements that involve multiple muscle groups, like the squat and deadlift, are most effective for maintaining bone density. It’s essential that you are lifting enough weight to stimulate your muscles and bones, so choose a weight that is challenging but will not result in injury. We are usually a lot stronger than we think we are!
If you already have osteoporosis, you may think that muscle-strengthening exercises might be dangerous or lead to fracture. While everybody is different, exercising (resistance training in particular) is critical in maintaining bone density for people with osteoporosis. However, it is best to consult with a medical professional if you aren’t sure what the best type of movement is for your body given your own amount of bone loss.
Balance exercises like lunges, sit to stands, tree pose and bird dogs strengthen your core and other muscles which improves your ability to hold yourself upright to prevent falls. Balance is essential, because it will help you prevent falls in the first place. When doing balance exercises, you want to think about engaging your stomach muscles and glutes. If you feel wobbly at first, try doing the exercises next to a wall and put a finger on the wall for support.
Flexibility exercises keep your muscles loose and joints mobile. This allows your body to be more agile and move more freely. As tempting as it is to leave class immediately after the timer rings, stretching after your workout is crucial for improving flexibility. If you aren’t able to stay to stretch, try a stretching or yoga video on YouTube before you go to bed. It can be a great way to unwind from the day and you’ll wake up with much happier muscles!
Classes at Get Fit are unique, because they combine all four of these components into nearly every workout. High-intensity resistance training, which is very common in our classes, allows your body to improve strength and balance and increase muscle mass all at the same time. Rather than having to plan multiple types of movement, you can come to class and know that the coaches are incorporating all of these aspects into the workout. Your role is to show up, challenge yourself and give each workout your best, because your muscles, bones and brain deserve it!