Today’s last installment of nutrition and lifestyle changes for osteoporosis will focus on musculoskeletal health at midlife.
In addition to bone health and its importance in treating, as well as preventing, osteoporosis, it’s important to address what happens to our muscles as we get older.
Did you know that muscle mass decreases approximately 3–8% per decade over the age of 30 and this rate of decline is even higher over 60? This process is called sarcopenia and it contributes to loss of strength, mobility issues, disability, and falls, particularly for older adults. Sarcopenia also leads to increases in body fat and changes in body composition.
Luckily, the very same protocol that helps prevent osteoporosis can also help with sarcopenia.
Resistance training (lifting weights) a few times a week and consuming an adequate amount of high-quality dietary protein sources (more on protein requirements in the next post) can help to slow or partially reverse the effects of natural, gradual sarcopenia.
To maintain strong bones for a lifetime, we need to build, as well as maintain bone density. Weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises can help us achieve this.
If the idea of exercise causes you stress, consider approaching movement as a supportive part of self-care. Here are suggestions on how to fight back against harmful, diet-culture driven rhetoric.
Let’s talk first about exercise, or what I much prefer to call joyful movement.
There are three different ways to move our bodies to help prevent and treat osteoporosis, as well as sarcopenia:
- Weight-bearing Aerobic Exercises: These involve doing aerobic exercise on your feet, with your bones supporting your weight. Walking, dancing, low-impact aerobics, stair climbing, and gardening are all examples of these kinds of osteoporosis exercises.
- Strength or Resistance Training: Strength training can include using weights, weight machines, resistance bands, or doing water exercises to strengthen the muscles and bones in your arms, spine and hips. Strength training may work directly on your bones to slow mineral loss as well. Osteoporosis exercises that gently stretch your upper back, strengthen the muscles between your shoulder blades, and improve your posture can all help to reduce harmful stress on your bones and maintain bone density.
- Flexibility: When you can move your joints through their full range of motion, it helps you maintain good balance and prevent muscle injury. Additionally, flexibility helps you maintain your posture, which is essential in avoiding osteoporosis. The best osteoporosis exercises in this category are various forms of stretching. Tai Chi and yoga are excellent forms of exercise in this category. However, you should avoid positions that can put excessive stress on the bones in your spine. These place you at greater risk of a compression fracture.
A few important notes if you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis:
- It is advisable to speak with a specialist trained in exercise for osteoporosis to keep you safe!
- It’s important to avoid high impact exercises such as jumping, running, or jogging, which can increase compression in your spine and lower extremities and can lead to fractures in weakened bones.
- It’s important to avoid exercises in which you bend forward and twist your waist. These include touching your toes, doing sit-ups or using a rowing machine.
If you have always exercised, keep it up. If you have just been warned you have a risk of osteoporosis, now is a good time to start.
I have started reading an excellent book written by a physical therapist, Margaret Martin, that includes specific exercises for osteoporosis called, “Exercise for Better Bones: The Complete Guide to Safe and Effective Exercises for Osteoporosis.”
Summing it all up
Osteoporosis has a gradual onset, with inadequate nutrition and lack of physical activity being some of the risk factors. Other risk factors include smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Here is a comprehensive list of additional risk factors for osteoporosis.
Calcium and vitamin D consumption paired with sufficient physical activity, specifically resistance training and weight-bearing exercises, can help prevent osteoporosis, reduce severity of the disease or stop its progression.
Some individuals will need medication, but this is important to discuss with your health care provider.
If you are not sure that you are getting what you need (by diet and/or supplements) to keep your bones strong and prevent osteoporosis, please feel free to book a free call with me and let’s talk. Together we can determine what is the best path for you.
If you missed the first two lessons on Calcium and other Strategies for Osteoporosis and Strong Bones at Midlife, Menopause and Beyond, click the links below to reach each article.
- Part 1: How Calcium can help prevent Osteoporosis
- Part 2: Strategies for Strong Bones at Midlife, Menopause and Beyond
- Part 3: Vitamin D and Osteoporosis and Menopause
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Erica Leon is a Registered Dietitian and practices from a Health at Every Size (HAES®) lens. She is certified as an eating disorder specialist and is passionate about helping women at midlife, menopause and beyond to make peace with food and body image.
Erica is a highly sensitive nutrition therapist who takes the time to learn where you or your family are in the pursuit of health. Respectful of your individual needs and lifestyle, she will provide an honest assessment of whether or not you are a good fit to work together. Click here to schedule a 15-minute Discovery Call with Erica to let us know about your needs, and to see which of our Dietitians is the best fit for you!
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