You may not think about your bones very often. Achy muscles probably get your attention, as do creaky joints. But bones, at their best, are strong, silent types, quietly going about the business of supporting your body, protecting organs, storing minerals and developing blood cells. Nevertheless, your bones could benefit from some attention — especially as you get older and the risk of osteoporosis increases.
What Is Osteoporosis?
Bone is living tissue that undergoes a daily process of breakdown and renewal. As you get older, bone breakdown can occur more quickly than renewal, resulting in lowered bone density. While some decrease in bone density is natural, osteoporosis occurs when loss of bone mass leads to weak, brittle bones that are more vulnerable to fractures. According to the Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation, after age 50, 1 in 2 women and up to 1 in 4 men will break a bone due to osteoporosis. In advanced stages of osteoporosis, even minor stresses like coughing or sneezing can cause bone fractures.
There are certain risk factors that can make osteoporosis more likely. Asian and white women who are past menopause have a higher risk of osteoporosis. But there are also steps you can take to strengthen bones and prevent osteoporosis. Good nutrition — including adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D — can help keep your bones healthy. And so can exercise!
Exercises to Build Strong Bones
While anything that keeps you moving can be helpful for overall health, certain types of exercise can improve bone density or help mitigate the effects of osteoporosis. Before you start an exercise program, check with your doctor to see which exercises are best for your current fitness level.
Activities like walking, dancing, low-impact aerobics, and gardening require your body to work against gravity, strengthening the bones in your legs, hips and spine.
One simple weight-bearing exercise is foot stomps, an exercise that targets the hips, which are often vulnerable to fractures due to osteoporosis. To do foot stomps:
- Stand upright and stomp your right foot, imagining that you’re crushing a can.
- Repeat 4 times with your right foot and then 4 times with your left foot.
- Hold onto a railing or sturdy piece of furniture if you’re having trouble balancing.
Resistance exercises with free weights, resistance bands, or weight machines improve bone mass and may even stimulate bone building. Shoulder lifts are an example of a bone- and muscle-building exercise:
- Standing or sitting, take a dumbbell in each hand.
- Start with your hands at your sides.
- Slowly raise your arms in front of you, keeping your arms straight without locking your elbows.
- Lift to a comfortable level, without going higher than shoulder level.
- Repeat 8 to 12 times.
- Rest and repeat for a second set, if possible.
Strengthening the muscles that allow you to have good posture can reduce pressure on the spine and bring the body into alignment; this helps muscles, tendons and ligaments provide proper support for your bones.
Shoulder rolls are a postural exercise that can prevent you from hunching forward and relieve tension in your shoulders and back. To do shoulder rolls:
- Sit or stand with your eyes forward.
- Inhale and rotate your shoulders up and back making big circles with them.
- After a few circles, you can switch directions, moving shoulders forward and down.
Balance and Flexibility Exercises
Yoga, Tai Chi, qi gong and simple stretches won’t necessarily improve bone density, but they can keep you nimble and improve stability, reducing the risk of falls which may lead to bone fractures.
The Philosophy of Fitness at Fellowship Village
At Fellowship Village, we know fitness is an essential part of overall well-being. That’s why we offer a variety of programs specially designed for older adults. You can work with our personal trainers – virtually or in person – for personalized one-on-one guidance. And in 2023, our new fitness center will open, offering state-of-the-art fitness opportunities for residents at Fellowship Village and the surrounding community. Contact us to find out more about our approach to wellness and our new fitness center.