Osteoporosis. What is it and how you can help prevent it.

Osteoporosis is a loss of bone mineral density that causes bones to become brittle and highly susceptible to fracture – particularly in the hip, spine and wrists. No matter what your age, bone needs physical activity, just like muscle, to retain strength and post-menopausal women can expect to lose around 1% of their bone mineral density each year. Currently 1 in 2 adults over 50 are inactive, that is they participate in fewer than 30 minutes of exercise per week[1].
Other modifiable lifestyle factors that can affect bone density are:

  • smoking
  • excessive alcohol intake
  • poor nutrition
  • low calcium intake

There are no warning signs of osteoporosis. The disease is silent and painless until a fracture has occurred.

Exercise works for osteoporosis prevention because it places stress on bones, which results in increased bone mass. For post-menopausal woman the most effective exercise to strengthen bones is high impact exercise[2]. A well balanced exercise programme including weight-bearing, impact exercises and strength training should be designed for an individual hoping to prevent or minimise the deterioration of osteoporosis.

Weight bearing high impact exercises could include:

  • dancing
  • hiking
  • jogging
  • stair climbing
  • tennis

If you are not able to do high impact exercises then you could consider:

  • elliptical training machines
  • low impact aerobics
  • stair-step machines
  • walking (treadmill/outside)

Strength training should have a whole body approach as adaptations in bone mineral density are site specific. Strength training exercises include activities such as:

  • Functional movements, such as standing and rising up on your toes
  • Lifting weights
  • Using elastic exercise bands/dynabands
  • Using weight machines
  • Lifting your own body weight, such as push-ups.

 If you would like to reduce your risk of osteoporosis, increase your bone density and slow or reverse the normal bone loss associated with ageing, a good place to start would be my blog on  Resistance exercises using body weight.

If you have any questions on this article, or any questions about exercise and the over-50s please post a comment.

For more information on Personal Training please go here Whole Life Fitness, Personal Training for the over-50s This will open a new browser window.

[1] Department of Health. (2004). At least 5 a week: evidence on the impact of physical activity and its relationship to health.

[2] Wallace BA and Cumming RG., (2000) Systematic review of randomized trials of the effect of exercise on bone mass in pre- and postmenopausal women. Calcif Tissue Int 67: 10-18.

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