Bone density is one of the top healthy aging concerns in women and men 50 and over. But you do have options when it comes to supporting your bone health, it’s not all a game of genetics.
I get a lot of questions in my physical practice about how clients can support or reverse bone density concerns. While bone density has genetic implications, we do have the ability to age healthfully with diet and targeted exercise.
When you have this condition, your bones get weak and thin. They become more likely to break. It’s a silent condition, which means you don’t feel any symptoms. Without a bone density test, you may not realize you have osteoporosis until you break a bone.
A bone density test is a measurement of how much mineral, such as calcium, you have in your bones. The most common and most versatile test is with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA).
Who should have a bone density Test? Check Here.
In the United States in 2010, an estimated 10.2 million people aged 50 and over had osteoporosis and about 43.3 million more people had low bone mass (3). This report provides prevalence estimates of osteoporosis and low bone mass among adults aged 50 and over in the United States in 2017–2018.
While starting weight training and targeted aerobics like running early in your 20’s is important, you are not without options. Yes! You can choose healthy aging and change your bone density results. I have had the opportunity to work with many women who only began weight training over 50 years old and I happy to tell you, there’s still time to make a real difference.
Here’s how NIH explains. Physical exercise is considered an effective means to stimulate bone osteogenesis in osteoporotic patients. The authors reviewed the current literature to define the most appropriate features of exercise for increasing bone density in osteoporotic patients. Two types emerged.
Weight-bearing aerobic exercises, i.e., walking, stair climbing, jogging, and Tai Chi. Walking alone did not appear to improve bone mass; however it is able to limit its progressive loss. In fact, in order for the weight-bearing exercises to be effective, they must reach the mechanical intensity useful to determine an important ground reaction force.
Strength and resistance exercises: these are carried out with loading (lifting weights) or without (swimming, cycling). For this type of exercise to be effective a joint reaction force superior to common daily activity with sensitive muscle strengthening must be determined. These exercises appear extremely site-specific, able to increase muscle mass and BMD only in the stimulated body regions. Other suggested protocols are multicomponent exercises and whole body vibration. Multicomponent exercises consist of a combination of different methods (aerobics, strengthening, progressive resistance, balancing, and dancing) aimed at increasing or preserving bone mass. These exercises seem particularly indicated in deteriorating elderly patients, often not able to perform exercises of pure reinforcement.
Get off the couch, office chair and get moving! Yes, if you’re not ready to run, walk. Just walking (weight-bearing aerobic exercise) for 15-20 minutes daily can have lasting bone-density effects.
Often, I’ve heard, “I’m not a jock, I’ve never lifted weights.” I disagree. Are you a parent or even grandparent? Then I know you’ve bicep curled a 20 lb toddler before. Functional fundamentals of weightlifting are at the core of bone density health. We train for the life we have and the healthy lifestyle we want. While being able to ‘deadlift’ 200 lbs is an impressive brag at the gym, being able play outside and take that adventure hike with your family is the real objective.
Injuries, Health concerns? Everybody is on a unique wellness and fitness journey so asking for help is key. Finding the right Corrective Exercise Specialist or a Personal Trainer with an Orthopedic Exercise Specialization is a great place to start.
Be Well and Get Dense with those Bones!