Starting at a young age, doctors assess physical activity as well as calcium and vitamin D intake to insure we are building bone mass. “Most people never think about how likely we are to develop Osteopenia, bone loss which eventually leads to Osteoporosis, a condition causing brittle, weak bones until we are well past those critical years,” said Fitness Plus Health & Fitness Specialist, Mitchell Bumgarner, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, ACSM CEP.
Race, age, gender, nutrition, size (small frame), heredity and hormone levels are all among the risk factors doctors use to determine whether to recommend a bone mineral density test/screening. Results from this test are reported as a T-score. This number shows how much higher or lower your bone density is compared to a healthy 30-year-old. “At the age of 30, you lose slightly more bone than you gain, so it is important to do all that you can before then to increase your bone mass,” explains Mitchell.
Good bone health habits should begin as early as childhood and especially during puberty years. Physical activity is important early on as our bodies make the most significant gains in bone mass in the pre-teen years. Caucasian and Asian women between the ages of 20 – 80 face the greatest risk of bone loss. Too much thyroid hormone and decreased estrogen levels following menopause are major contributors. Likewise, low testosterone levels can progress bone loss in men. Lifestyle behaviors and modifications including nutrition, supplementation, limiting alcohol and nicotine intake, and increasing exercise can help males and females maintain or increase bone density.
Research has shown that exercise has the most significant positive results for building bone mass, more so, than consuming calcium alone. “Weight-Bearing” exercise is most beneficial in battling bone loss because:
- it stimulates calcium uptake and new bone formation
- strengthens muscles while
- enhances coordination and balance which reduces our risk of falling and fracturing bones
Simple movements like walking, jogging, dancing, climbing stairs, sports, and many other activities which require picking up one foot and putting it down will help in preventing bone loss. Strength training is another form of exercise used to combat bone loss and can be performed on resistance exercise equipment or by using free weights. It is important to increase the weight as the repetitions become easier. Generally, starting at a weight that you can lift for 2 sets of 20 repetitions is sufficient.
“Variety is key as our bodies adapt easily to familiar routines. Mix up your activities each week with a minimum of 2-3, non-consecutive days of strength training exercise plus 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise at least 5 days per week,” advices Mitchell.
For greater results, doctors may suggest that you seek one-on-one guidance and motivation from a certified fitness professional. It is never too late to begin exercising and building strong bones! To make an appointment with certified trainer at Fitness Plus call 828.326.3680.