Besides making you look and feel great, exercise plays another important role in our lives. It can be a key component in the prevention and treatment of many diseases, including osteoporosis.
Although osteoporosis is not gender exclusive, it more commonly affects postmenopausal women, especially petite, thin, fair-skinned women. Known risk factors include hormonal imbalances, specifically estrogen deficiency, as well as extended use of certain thyroid medications and steroids. Lack of sufficient calcium and physical inactivity predispose many women to this disease.
Up until around age 40, women are still developing bone mass, though peak bone mass is obtained during teenage and young adult years. Encouraging young girls to participate in sports and exercise-related activities early on can contribute to lifelong healthy bones and bodies.
You can choose a lifestyle that fosters good bone health. Consuming dairy products and/or calcium supplements and participating in weight-bearing cardiovascular training as well as resistance training are good places to start.
An example of a weight-bearing exercise is the one-legged squat. Balance yourself on one leg with your knees bent and weight in your heel. Bend your opposite raised leg so your toe is pointing toward the floor. Squat down by sitting back, hinging at your hips. Then rise back to the starting position by pushing up through your heels. Rise back up only to the point where your knees are still bent and then go immediately into the next repetition. Try 15 repetitions on one leg and then switch to the other leg for another set.
Consult with your physician, but if you already suffer from osteoporosis, you will most likely have to eliminate running, jumping, abdominal crunches, spinal flexion, rowing machines and adductor machines from your training.
The prevention of bone loss should begin in adolescence through proper nutrition and sufficient physical activity, but it can be curbed in adulthood with strength training. Slowly and progressively increasing the load can cause new bone growth and halt the progression of the disease.
So when it comes to your bones, use them or lose them. It's up to you.
(Nancy Cole is a certified personal trainer from South Florida.)
(c) 2004, The Miami Herald. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.