How to Prevent Osteoporosis with Exercise


Osteoporosis is a silent chronic dis­ease that produces a loss of bone mass resulting in structural deteriora­tion of the skeleton and increased susceptibility to bone breakage. Build­ing and maintaining bone density is a lifetime pursuit. The bones reach peak density between the ages of 20 and 30, but 90 percent of adult bone mineral content is deposited by the end of adolescence. This is a time when youngsters of both sexes should be getting enough calcium (approxi­mately 1,200 to 1,500 mg/day), vitamin D (400 lU/day), and consistent exer­cise of a weight-bearing aerobic type plus weight training.

The most common fracture sites associated with osteoporosis are verte­bral crush fractures (bones of the spinal column) and fractures of the hip, wrist, and femur (thigh bone). The death rate within the first year after a hip fracture in an elderly person is 18 percent to 33 percent, and most of those who survive have a diminished quality of life.

Risk Factors for Osteoporosis

Some factors that increase the likeli­hood of developing osteoporosis are:

1. Age

2. Gender. Women are more suscep­tible than men, particularly those with a small, thin skeletal frame­work and those who experience early menopause. Men also develop osteoporosis, but they lose bone more slowly and usually incur bone fractures when they are older.

3. Heredity. The risk is greater when other family members have osteo­porosis.

4. Lack of physical activity. Physical activity stresses the bones and maintains the integrity of the skeletal system.

5. Cigarette smoking: Smoking sup­presses estrogen production in females, leading to early meno­pause and loss of the skeletal pro­tection provided by estrogen.

6. Insufficient intake of calcium and vitamin D. It is probably effective and prudent to suggest that all adults consume 1,200 to 1,500 mg of calcium from food and supple­ments each day. Vitamin D is needed for the body to absorb cal­cium. Adults up to 60 years of age should take in 400 1U (International Unit) of vitamin D daily; adults ages 60 to 69 should increase to 600 IU daily; and those ages 70 and older should take in 800 IU daily.

Although osteoporosis is treatable, it is not curable. The best approach is to prevent or delay its advent. The most important preventive technique is to develop as much bone as possible during the teenage years.

Effects of Exercise

Bone is living tissue that responds to the downward force of gravity and the lateral forces generated by the forceful contraction of muscles. Weight-bearing, impact-loading exercises such as walk­ing, jogging, aerobic dancing, and stair-climbing can increase bone mass. Even the skeletal systems of nursing-home residents (average age 87 years) have responded to exercise with an increase in bone mass. Non-weight-bearing activities such as swimming and stationary cycling are not as effective in increasing bone density.

Researchers have examined the effect of resistance weight training on the skeletal system. Studies have indi­cated that bones respond to weight training by becoming thicker and denser. For good results, weight-training exercises should be done at an intensity level equal to 80 percent of 1 repetition maximum (1RM). This is approximately equivalent to per­forming 10 lifts, or repetitions, of an exercise with a weight heavy enough so it cannot be lifted 11 times. Exer­cises that stress the major muscle groups should be selected so the bones to which they are attached also will be stressed.

Filed Under: Health & Personal Care

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About the Author: Andrew Reinert is a health care professional who loves to share different tips on health and personal care. He is a regular contributor to MegaHowTo and lives in Canada.

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