Did you know that your bones are made up of living tissue which is in a constant state of turnover throughout life? One of the most common health challenges that women face as they age is a loss in bone density (diagnosed as osteoporosis if the loss is significant or osteopenia if the bone density loss is less severe). Some of the main contributors to osteoporosis include an inadequate calcium intake and a lack of mechanical forces applied to the bone. As a result inactivity is a major risk factor for osteoporosis.
The good news however is that activity can actually help people improve their bone density. Exercises that exert mechanical load, muscle stresses, and gravity on the bone are an important way to help build and maintain healthy bones. This includes walking, running as well as muscle strengthening exercises.
Because peak bone mass is reached in our late teens/early twenties these types of exercises are best if started early in life and done regularly as you age. However, it is important to remember that you can begin exercising at any age and still reap great benefits.
Good posture can also help. Using proper posture and safe body mechanics during all activities protects the spine against injury by transmitting forces correctly through the skeleton.
Here are some tips:
- Keep your back, stomach, and leg muscles strong and flexible. This makes it easier to hold a neutral position
- Stop slouching. When sitting, keep your spine and head straight. Support the arch of your low back with small pillow behind your waist to encourage you to keep a neutral positioning
- When lifting or bending forward, bend your knees, keep your back straight, bend forward at the hip crease, and lift with your legs. Keep the load close to your body.
- Ask for help or use an assistive device to lift heavy objects.
- Maintain a regular physical fitness regimen. Staying active can help to prevent injuries.
- Changing the type of exercise that you do is also important to maintain healthy bones. Try holding light weights or water bottles as you walk/jog to help load bone. Changing the speed and direction of an exercise can also help.
- Keep at it. Bone density can take well over 24 weeks to see measurable improvements
If you have osteoporosis, are at high risk for a fall or fracture, or have a medical condition affecting your ability to exercise, do not begin an exercise program without first consulting your physician and chartered physiotherapist
The ISCP is an official supporter of the Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon. To find a chartered physiotherapist near you visit www.findaphysio.ie. For a list of Chartered Physiotherapists who specialise in women’s health and continence contact the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists on 01 402 2148 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.