We all know the benefits of a strength and conditioning program from a muscular standpoint, but let’s pause and think about the benefits your bones receive.
Our bones are living tissue and constantly changing. From the moment of birth until young adulthood, bones are developing and strengthening. Peak bone mass occurs in our early 20s when our bones are at their most dense. As we age some of our bone cells begin to dissolve bone matrix (resorption), while new bone cells deposit osteoid (formation). This process is known as remodeling. When the osteoid becomes mineralized it and the adjacent bone cells develop into new bone tissue.
When you put stress on a bone during exercise, bone cells respond by creating more bone tissue. The bone-building process is called osteogenesis. If bone loss outpaces the growth of new bone, bones become porous, and the density and the quality of the bones are reduced. This is known as osteoporosis.
As bones become more porous and fragile, the risk of fracture greatly increases. Bone loss occurs silently and progressively, with often no symptoms until the first fracture occurs.
Who is at Risk?
There are two categories of risks when it comes to osteoporosis. Fixed risks and modifiable risks. Fixed risk factors cannot be changed but we need to be aware of them so that we can take steps to reduce bone mineral loss. Often referred to as ‘secondary risks’ the factors may include the following:
- Female gender
- Family history of osteoporosis
- Previous fracture
- Long term glucocorticoid therapy
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Modifiable risk factors directly impact bone biology and result in a decrease in bone mineral density. These include:
- Low body mass index
- Poor nutrition
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Eating disorders
- Insufficient exercise
- Low dietary calcium intake
- Frequent falls
You’re Old Enough to be Concerned
“Osteoporosis is something elderly women are at risk for.” Don’t think you have time to wait, because that is not always the case. According to the most recent data available from the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about 12 million people in the United States age 50 or over already have osteoporosis, and another 40 million have low bone mass.
Though osteoporosis among women younger than 50 is considered rare, a study conducted at the University of Arkansas found that it’s a greater risk than most women realize. Information on 164 college aged women, showed 2% had bone densities low enough to be considered osteoporosis, and 15% were low enough to be in osteoporosis risk range. About half of all women over the age of 50 will have a fracture of the hip, wrist, or vertebra during their lifetime. Spine fractures being the most common.
Not a Woman’s Disease
Men, you are at risk also! Bone loss in men usually occurs later in life compared with women, but men can still be at high risk for osteoporosis. By age 65, men catch up to women and lose bone mass at the same rate.
It is estimated that by 2025, the total number of hip fractures in men will be similar to the current number reported in women. Perhaps because men are generally older than women are when they have a fracture, men are often more severely disabled.
What Can You Do?
First, talk to your health care provider about proper nutrition, supplementation, (Vitamin D & Calcium) specifically. Second, get yourself to the gym!! Exercise plays a key role in adults preventing bone loss and maintaining muscle strength and thus helps prevent weak bone and falls as we age. The best exercise to prevent osteoporosis is weight-bearing exercise that works against gravity. Weight-bearing exercises can include walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, playing tennis, jumping rope, and dancing. A second type of exercise is resistance exercise. Resistance exercises include activities that use muscle strength to build muscle mass, and these also help to strengthen bone. These activities include weight lifting, such as using free weights and weight machines.. Of course, exercise has additional benefits in older people as well because exercising increases muscle strength, coordination, and balance and leads to better overall health.
If You Have Kids
Something to consider if you have children: according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, it’s estimated a 10% increase of peak bone mass in children (through exercise) can reduce the risk of an osteoporotic fracture during adult life by 50%. Remember that you’re raising adults, so give them a firm foundation through proper nutrition and exercise so that they can love a long and health life!
References: International Osteoporosis Foundation, MedlinePlus.gov, emedicinehealth.com, everydayhealth.com