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Postmenopausal with Osteopenia or Osteoporosis?
This is for you.
I’m sure you’ve heard about this thing exercise is good for your bone health. Well, folks, your doctors and physical therapists are not kidding.
Here are some facts that you should know:
- Of the ~10 million Americans with osteoporosis, about 80% are women.
- Approximately 50% of women over age 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis.
- A woman’s risk of breaking a hip is equal to her combined risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer.
Did you know that bone mineral density peaks by age 35 and that after the age of forty, women lose bone density at approximately 1% per year? That is why combatting bone loss throughout the lifespan is more important than once thought.
Research now recommends that females should begin a strength training routine as young as 9 years old. This includes 2-3 days per week, performing exercises that induce progressive overload on muscles and bones. The greatest improvements in skeletal health are achieved when resistance training progressively increases to 80-85% of our One-Repetition Maximum or 1RM (the maximum amount of weight that a person can possibly lift for one repetition). Also, Sometimes, ladies, that yoga class is simply not enough. Especially for your bone health!
Now, we all know that exercise helps improve our bone density while young and healthy. However, does it still do the same thing as one ages? So, today, I’m here to answer this question:
How does exercise help my bones post-menopause and what can I do to prevent further bone loss?
Now, I will say I combed through a lot of research to come to this conclusion.
EXERCISE IS ESSENTIAL TO STAYING HEALTHY POST-MENOPAUSE and POST-OSTEOPOROSIS DIAGNOSIS.
Can you still build muscle? Yes. Can you still build bone? Yes. May it take more time than before? Absolutely. Will you have to work harder than you ever have before? It’s certainly possible. Do you have to avoid things you once did just because the internet says so? Absolutely NOT.
To stimulate bone growth, the load applied to bones should exceed that encountered during daily activities. Ultimately, that means you need to be working harder than you do daily to create a change in your bone health. You also need patience.
There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding exercise and osteoporosis. If I were to receive a dollar for the number of times I read, “…walking, stair climbing, aquatic exercise and step aerobics will help improve your bone density”, I’d probably have several hundred dollars by now. It also boggles my brain that a physician will prescribe 6 weeks of therapy for a woman with osteoporosis meanwhile we know it takes a program of at least 8 months to see a change on a bone scan!
Believe it or not, research has shown that youth athletes who cycle, swim or run actually have lower BMD throughout their lifespan than their counterparts who play field sports or lift weights. So, why is it that we recommend non-weight bearing activities to elders who are struggling with bone health? I understand safety is a primary concern, but let’s utilize what the research says and prescribe supervised exercise!
I recently released a video on this topic that I recommend you watch. It gives some greater insight into exercising with osteoporosis. Believe it or not, research has shown that lifting in a supervised manner, at 80-85% of your 1 RM stimulates bone growth in post-menopausal women with osteoporosis or osteopenia. Although this may sound scary, the outcomes of this study indicate minimal adverse effects in those participating in the program (the biggest being muscle spasms!). Oh, and it also showed that the woman who lifted heavier, had better outcomes than those who participated in a lighter weight (60% 1 PM), higher rep (8-12 reps) and aerobic based program (15 minute walk) 2x/week!
Ultimately, I do recommend weightlifting for those with osteopenia or osteoporosis. If you are unfamiliar with this form of exercise, consult your local physical therapist or hire a personal trainer for assistance! Oh, and if you have more questions, I’d be more than happy to help- so don’t hesitate to shoot us an email! Oh, and don’t forget to watch this 😊.
Here’s to strong women & strong bones throughout the lifespan.