Osteoporosis – know what it is? Only 25% of adults actually do, which you might find surprising for something that is so commonplace in modern society. Osteoporosis is a condition where the bones become weak and brittle, making them prone to fractures. It is a universal feature of ageing, and leads to almost 9 million fractures worldwide each year. There are 3 million people in the UK suffering from the condition and, in many cases, osteoporosis isn’t diagnosed until fractures have occurred.
Don’t fancy your chances?
You might be wondering what increases your chance of developing osteoporosis… Well, in part your genes, as these help determine your height and the strength of your skeleton. However, the biggest factor, believe it or not, is lifestyle. Your diet and the amount of exercise you partake in both influence the health of your bones. It’s also important to know that smoking and high alcohol intake can significantly heighten your risk of developing osteoporosis! These lifestyle habits reduce the strength of your bones and therefore increase your risk.
I think most people underestimate just how good exercise is for us, not only does it make you ‘fit’, so daily tasks like walking to the shops become easier, it also reduces the risk of major illnesses and disease significantly. Research has stated that exercise should be the mainstay of the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis . Resistance exercise is most effective in increasing your bone density – but how?
- It improves your muscle strength. Muscle strength is a strong determinant of bone mass and strength, so the more muscle you have the stronger your bones! It also reduces your risk of a fall.
- Bone loading stimulates bone formation and helps retain calcium (a building block for bone).
So, if you don’t currently exercise and are rapidly heading towards the grey years… enough said? In all seriousness though, exercise is extremely important, even one to two exercise sessions a week will greatly reduce osteoporosis risk and improve bone and muscle strength.
So, I’ve explained how important exercise is, but what about diet? There are two key dietary components which are essential for healthy bones, one them may not come as a shock to you: calcium but also vitamin D. Having one without the other is futile!! Vitamin D allows the body to absorb calcium whereas calcium (as explained previously) is a mineral contributing to the strength of our bones. Many studies show that low calcium intake throughout life is associated with low bones mass (weaker bones) and higher rates of fracture .
If anything you’ve read here concerns you, or if you simply just have questions, drop us an email and we’ll be more than happy to help!
- Russo CR. The effects of exercise on bone. Basic concepts and implications for the prevention of fractures. Clin Cases Miner Bone Metab. 2009;6(3):223-228
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Calcium and Vitamin D: Important at every age. Available from: https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/bone-health/nutrition/calcium-and-vitamin-d-important-every-age. Accessed 09/06/2018
Heulwen graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2017 with a degree in Sport and Exercise Science. She is currently completing a Masters in Musculoskeletal ageing and health.