Last week, we learned the vital role nutrition plays in slowing down the progression of osteopenia or osteoporosis. This week we will look at two simple lifestyle changes that can help you improve and maintain better bone health.
Bone Health Step 2: Weight-Bearing Exercise
Calcium supplements and osteoporosis medications can stop bone loss. Diemer explains. “But the body needs ‘encouragement’ to rebuild bone,” she adds. “The skeleton needs to be under stress so it will get stronger.” This allows the bone to rebuild itself. Exercise is an important step fo better bone health.
Be sure to talk with your doctor before you begin any exercise regimen. Here are some types of exercises your doctor may suggest.
Make walking a daily ritual. Walking, jogging, and light aerobics make your bones and muscles work against gravity — which puts stress on the skeleton, which strengthens bones. Bicycling is also good for bones; it offers some resistance, which improves muscle mass and strengthens bones.
She advises 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercise five days a week if you can. “I’m satisfied if they get 30 minutes, three times a week.”
Core strengthening is critical, too. Abdominal exercises, lower back exercises, yoga, Pilates, and tai chi help strengthen the spine. “All that stuff is great, because the most common fractures are in the spine,” Diemer tells WebMD. “Strengthening muscles to the spine gives more support to the spine. The other thing about yoga, Pilates, and tai chi — they improve balance, which prevents falls.”
Tell your instructor that you have osteoporosis. If you’re taking yoga or Pilates, make sure you have a certified instructor. You need close supervision to make sure you don’t harm yourself.
Bone Health Step 3: Don’t Smoke & Moderate Alcohol
“Nicotine is toxic to bone,” Diemer tells WebMD. “The first thing I tell patients who smoke is, if you don’t stop smoking there’s very little we can do for your bones. You counteract all medications.”
Alcohol in moderation is fine, but just one or two drinks a week, she advises. “Alcohol in excess causes about 2% bone loss in a year’s time. Nicotine also causes 2% bone loss. If you’re having alcohol and nicotine both in excess, the combined bone loss is actually doubled — 8% bone loss.”