Understanding Osteoporosis - Prevention
How important is regular exercise for preventing osteoporosis?
It's recommended that adults get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day to strengthen bones and prevent osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercises force your body to resist gravity and stimulate cells in the body that make new bone.
Strength training causes the muscles to pull on the bone. This results in increased bone strength. Strength training also increases flexibility and reduces the likelihood of falling -- the number-one risk factor for hip fracture.
The following examples of weight-bearing and strengthening exercises can help keep your bones strong:
- Climbing stairs
- Racquet sports
- Tai chi
- Water aerobics
These exercises will not only help you improve your muscle strength, they will also help strengthen your bones:
- Lifting canned goods or bags of groceries
- Lifting free weights
- Lifting young children
- Using ankle and wrist weights
- Using elastic resistance band
- Using weight machines
- Using your own weight as resistance
- Working out with barbells
For in-depth information, see WebMD's Exercise and Osteoporosis: Preventing Fractures.
Why are calcium and vitamin D important for strong bones?
If you don't get enough calcium every day through diet or supplements, your body will be deficient of this mineral. Then your body will break down the bones to replenish it and bone loss will increase. You can get ample calcium from any of the following:
- Low-fat or fat-free dairy products
- Calcium fortified juices and food
- Sardines with bones
- Certain vegetables
- Soy products
- Calcium supplements
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. It helps your body absorb calcium into the bloodstream. When your body is depleted of vitamin D or has an insufficient supply, the blood levels of calcium plummet. Vitamin D can be obtained through minimal sun exposure (10 minutes a day) and from your diet.
For in-depth information, see WebMD's Calcium, Vitamin D, and Osteoporosis: How Much Is Enough?
What else can I do to prevent osteoporosis?
You can beware of the bone robbers. Bone robbers are lifestyle habits or specific situations that may increase the risk of osteoporosis and/or falls. If you have weak bones from osteoporosis, a fall may result in a bone fracture.
Did you know that at least 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls? Activities like dancing and tai chi -- as well as strengthening exercises -- can help you stay flexible and avoid falling.
Here are more bone robbers that you can protect yourself against:
Excess alcohol consumption. Drinking more than two drinks daily is linked to an increased risk of bone loss.
Cigarette smoking. Cigarette smoking doubles the chance of bone loss and fractures by reducing the effectiveness of the body's estrogen.
The female athlete triad. This affects active women who exercise at high levels. The female athlete triad -- thin bones, lack of menstrual cycle, and eating disorders -- increases the risk of early bone loss. Athletes with menstrual disorders have lower estrogen levels. This often leads to lower bone mass.
Cola drinks. Some findings show that colas, but not other carbonated soft drinks, contribute to bone loss. It may be that the extra phosphorus in cola drinks binds with calcium and prevents it from being absorbed in the body. Or it may just be that women are replacing calcium-rich drinks, such as milk, with cola. Getting plenty of calcium every day through diet or supplements is vital to keeping your bones strong.