Exercises & Diet Plan to Help With Osteoporosis
Follow the Right Exercise & Diet Plan to Improve Bone Health
Baldock, Stevenage, Hertfordshire | Carol Clark PT
Our bones are living tissues which constantly change throughout our lifetime: usually, the old, worn-out bone cells are replaced with new ones. However, once we reach approximately 35 years of age, the density (and strength) of our bones start to decrease. Osteoporosis and bone loss are hard to prevent if you haven’t made sure to lead a healthy lifestyle with a good diet and exercise, and especially for post-menopausal women, this bone loss becomes even more rapid. In the UK half of women, and a third of men, aged over 60 will suffer from a fracture due to weakened bones.
How Does Exercise Help Prevent Osteoporosis?
While weak bones are more likely to be detected in your 50s, it is what we do up until our 30s that really counts. Up until then physical activity and good nutrition will help strengthen bones for the future. Equally, if we have low body weight, use steroids, smoke or drink too much alcohol this can all impact on the strength of our bones.
The Importance of Exercise for Strengthening Your Bones & Prevent Osteoporosis
Weight-bearing exercises are crucial for building and increasing bone density at any age and especially during menopause. If your healthcare professional has told you that you have, or are at risk of, osteoporosis or osteopenia, taking part in regular physical activity can be one way you can manage the symptoms and prevent them from having a larger impact on your bone health.
The Royal Osteoporosis Society have produced an expert consensus statement encouraging all people with osteoporosis to do more exercise, as a way to help with bone loss and increase bone denity. Recommendations include balance and strength exercises, such as Pilates, twice a week and impact work on most days.
In addition to exercise, an adequate diet plan rich in calcium and vitamin D will help with managing the osteoporosis symptoms and keeping bones healthy.
Calcium is an essential mineral that builds and maintains our bones as well as helping with other essential functions, like muscle contraction. The majority of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones and it is constantly being used and replaced. It is therefore vitally important to keep your calcium store well stocked!
Most people need 700 mg of calcium per day, but if you have osteoporosis or osteopenia your health professional may recommend you include 1000 mg in your diet. They may also prescribe a supplement.
Foods rich in calcium include;
dairy products, like milk and cheese
green leafy vegetables
fortified foods and drink, like breakfast cereal and alternative milks
To measure how much calcium you are getting through your diet you can use this calculator
So, for example;
A portion of oily fish with bones like sardines or pilchards = 350mg
¼ pint low fat milk = 150mg
A portion of cheese = 320mg
If you have a plant-based diet you can also get adequate calcium from your diet.
100g calcium set tofu =350mg
⅓ pint of calcium fortified plant milk = 240mg
Approx.20 almonds =72mg
Vitamin D is an essential part of our diet which helps the body absorb calcium from foods. It is, therefore, a key dietary ingredient when it comes to strengthening your bones. Most of our vitamin D is produced by our exposure to sunlight. Specifically, if you go outside for 15 minutes between 11 am and 3 pm two, or three times a week between April and September, that should be enough to produce sufficient Vitamin D for your body. However, if you live in a country with a wet climate that doesn't produce much sunlight like Britain, alternative food sources, rich in Vitamin D can also help. These good sources include oily fish, eggs and fortified breakfast cereals. You need to be aware though that you cannot get sufficient vitamin D from food alone. (https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/Calcium.pdf)
Exercise - dos and don'ts
Exercise to increase and maintain your bone mineral density is important if you have been told you have osteoporosis or osteopenia, but doing the correct exercise is equally important. A clinical exercise specialist can prescribe weight-bearing and resistance training that can maintain your bone strength and may even improve it. However, in post-menopausal women it is difficult to build bone density back up. In this situation it would be a case of not allowing the bone to deteriorate any further.
Depending on how thin and fragile the bones have become, there can be a delicate balance between how much force can improve or damage the bone. Certain exercises would not be recommended, as they might induce a fracture. For example, jogging is not advisable if you have low bone mineral density. You should always seek medical advice before doing any type of exercise after a diagnosis of osteoporosis and consult your doctor regarding any form of exercise you intend to undertake. Your doctor should be able to consult with you about the right diet and exercise plan for osteoporosis, depending on your situation.
Safe exercise for strengthening the bones and increase bone density includes weight-bearing exercises such as walking or stepping, and resistance training such as a seated leg press, wrist curls with a weight and hip adduction.
Exercises such as swimming and cycling are unlikely to improve bone strength as insufficient force is exerted through the body. In fact, breaststroke may not be recommended due to the compression of the neck as you lift the head out of the water. Other exercises such as the crunch sit-up and other forward flexion exercises, such as touching your toes, may also need to be avoided. This can be challenging if you enjoy Pilates or yoga, so make sure you find an appropriately qualified instructor who can adapt the exercises for you and will help you manage your symptoms.
Depending on how thin and fragile the bones have become, there can be a delicate balance between how much force can improve or damage the bone. Certain exercises would not be recommended, as they might induce a fracture. For example, jogging is not advisable if you have low bone mineral density. You should always seek medical advice before doing any type of exercise after a diagnosis of osteoporosis..
Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you need any more information regarding the article above, or if you're interested in joining any of our training sessions. When it comes to matters of your health, it is important to discuss your needs with a specialist and work towards improving your health together.
Carol Clark is a Clinical Exercise Specialist who is qualified to prescribe exercise on referral, work with cardiac patients, teach Pilates and yoga and design programmes to improve their balance . She has taught on the ‘bonewise’ programme at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, is a qualified Pilates teacher with a specialism in Osteoporosis.