Starting at a young age, doctors assess physical activity as well as calcium
and vitamin D intake to insure we are building bone mass. “Most
people never think about how likely we are to develop Osteopenia, bone
loss which eventually leads to Osteoporosis, a condition causing brittle,
weak bones until we are well past those critical years,” said Fitness
Plus Health & Fitness Specialist, Mitchell Bumgarner, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, ACSM CEP.
Race, age, gender, nutrition, size (small frame), heredity and hormone
levels are all among the risk factors doctors use to determine whether
to recommend a bone mineral density test/screening. Results from this
test are reported as a T-score. This number shows how much higher or lower
your bone density is compared to a healthy 30-year-old. “At the
age of 30, you lose slightly more bone than you gain, so it is important
to do all that you can before then to increase your bone mass,”
Good bone health habits should begin as early as childhood and especially
during puberty years. Physical activity is important early on as our bodies
make the most significant gains in bone mass in the pre-teen years. Caucasian
and Asian women between the ages of 20 – 80 face the greatest risk
of bone loss. Too much thyroid hormone and decreased estrogen levels following
menopause are major contributors. Likewise, low testosterone levels can
progress bone loss in men. Lifestyle behaviors and modifications including
nutrition, supplementation, limiting alcohol and nicotine intake, and
increasing exercise can help males and females maintain or increase bone density.
Research has shown that exercise has the most significant positive results
for building bone mass, more so, than consuming calcium alone. “Weight-Bearing”
exercise is most beneficialin battling bone loss because:
- it stimulates calcium uptake and new bone formation
- strengthens muscles while
- enhances coordination and balance which reduces our risk of falling and
Simple movements like walking, jogging, dancing, climbing stairs, sports,
and many other activities which require picking up one foot and putting
it down will help in preventing bone loss. Strength training is another
form of exercise used to combat bone loss and can be performed on resistance
exercise equipment or by using free weights. It is important to increase
the weight as the repetitions become easier. Generally, starting at a
weight that you can lift for 2 sets of 20 repetitions is sufficient.
“Variety is key as our bodies adapt easily to familiar routines.
Mix up your activities each week with a minimum of 2-3, non-consecutive
days of strength training exercise plus 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise
at least 5 days per week,” advices Mitchell.
For greater results, doctors may suggest that you seek one-on-one guidance
and motivation from a certified fitness professional. It is never too
late to begin exercising and building strong bones!