Osteoporosis is a bone disease that is characterized by low bone mass and the deterioration of the structure of bone tissue. This results in fragile bones and increased risk of fracture. Osteoporosis also affects the posture, balance and breathing in by changing the center of gravity in later stages. It is a disease that affects about 8 million women and 2 million men in the US. Another 34 million Americans have low bone mass or osteopenia. Unfortunately, many are not diagnosed with either process, because typically there are no symptoms or signs. A broken bone or a fracture typically “finds” the osteoporosis.
Peak bone density is reached around the age of 30. We can maintain that bone density by consuming adequate amounts of vitamin D, calcium, not smoking and drinking alcohol in excess. You can also maintain or increase bone density with regular weight-bearing exercises and by lifting weights. A woman may lose up to 20% of her peak bone density within 5-7 years after menopause. Factors that contribute to this rate of bone loss include adequate nutrition, taking certain medications, cigarette smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, and a sedentary lifestyle. Excessive intakes of protein and sodium can also contribute to osteoporosis.
According to the book The Best Exercise Program For Osteoporosis Prevention, “The most important component of the exercise program for osteoporosis prevention is the strengthening exercises.” They did studies and followed women to determine the best program. The program is a combination of strength training, weight-bearing activity, small muscle development exercise, stretch and balance exercises, and combines with aerobic activity. Within one month of training, all exercise should be performed at the 70-80% of a one repetition max (1RM). These are moderate loads and are lifted twice per week, and heavy loads 80% 1RM once per week. The workout was 1 ½ hours, but can be cut down to 45 minutes. The cardio warm up of 3-5 minutes starts the program. Strength training exercise for 20 minutes, two sets of 6-8RM in good form, 3 times a week. Cardiovascular weight-bearing activity 15 minutes. Small muscle exercises 5 minutes and a cool down of 2-5 minutes to end. The 6 most effective strength training exercise in this program are: wall squats or Smith Machine squats, one arm military press, leg press, lat pull downs, seated row, back extension. When performing these exercise the participant should rate exertion at about 4-5 on a 10 point modified Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion.
There are many other exercises I did not list that are very effective and great for increasing bone density. There are also exercises that should be avoided with someone who has osteoporosis, such as forward flexion exercises. A variety is also needed to work on compliance and to avoid your body getting bored with the exercises. After all, exercise is a HUGE component of a healthy lifestyle and should be approached in this way. Diet is also a huge component and needs to be addressed not only to maintain good bone health, but overall good health and the prevention of disease.