Bones provide the support network for our bodies, helping to form our shape and protect our organs. It is essential that bones are kept strong since they function as the body framework and any weakness will predispose us to injury. As we age, our bone density naturally decreases, the risks associated with falls increases and our ability to recover is slower, but don’t worry, we can help negate these effects and maintain some control of our bone density through regular exercise.
When you participate in exercise, it is not just your muscles that will get stronger but also your bones. Peak bone mass is usually reached in the 20s and those males and females that exercise young and regularly, have been shown to reach a higher level of bone mass, at their peak, when compared to those that do not exercise regularly. Unfortunately, the bone density lost with age increases the risk of a fracture following a fall. It is known that regular exercise will help to minimise bone loss, maintain muscle strength, maintain joint mobility and balance. This is particularly important in those that have been diagnosed with osteoporosis – a condition that is defined by brittle bones due to loss of bone density and as a result, strength. It is never too late to start an exercise programme but be sure to check with your GP first if you are diagnosed with conditions that affect your ability to perform.
There are a number of exercises that can be done to minimise bone loss and potentially build bone. These include weight bearing exercises and resistance training. Weight bearing activities include walking, dancing, playing racquet sports and jogging. These do not include exercises such as swimming, this is considered primarily a non-weight bearing exercise as the body is supported by the water. It must be considered however, that swimming is exceptionally good for muscle tone, cardiovascular improvements and weight loss control and can be used as part of a healthy regular exercise regime. Lifting weights can also have a positive effect on the bones and should be encouraged as part of a balanced programme benefiting both bone and muscle strength.
Whilst the internet provides a wealth of information, when starting an exercise routine it is advisable to check with you doctor first particularly if you have conditions such as diabetes, heart issues, obesity, have never exercised or are over the age of forty. If conditions have been highlighted and your doctor urges caution, then it is worth speaking with a qualified fitness instructor to ensure that they are familiar with your needs to ensure safe and happy training.
There are other steps that you can take to reduce the rate of loss of your bone density, these include eating foods with adequate levels of vitamin D and calcium. Vitamin D is necessary to assist with the absorption of calcium from your food and a healthy dose of sunlight will help your body to produce the vitamin D it requires. In addition, some vitamin D can be taken from food sources such as oily dish, including: sardines, salmon, trout and mackerel and also red meat and eggs. Calcium can be found in dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt and some leafy green vegetables.
So, whilst we cannot stop the ageing process, we do not need to give up hope. Eat sensibly and exercise regularly are key factors in a good healthy life!