As the body ages the bones naturally begin to weaken. The degree of bone loss can be measured using a test called the bone mineral density test. This indicates the strength of the bones and what risk there is that they may break. Osteoporosis is the most severe form of bone loss and is most common among women, although men can have it to a lesser degree. Osteopenia, the intermediate degree of bone loss between normal and osteoporosis, affects nearly half of all Americans over 50 years of age.
In addition to the natural aging process, bone loss is directly linked to insufficient levels of calcium and vitamin D in the diet. Certain prescription medication, such as anticonvulsants and corticosteroids, can pull these vital nutrients and vitamins from the bones and the body, causing the bones to become weaker. Smoking and drinking too much alcohol can also have a negative effect on the body's bones.
There is a major link with lack of exercise and bone loss. Lack of proper weight-bearing exercises can exacerbate bone loss, whereas getting the proper amounts of exercise, both weight-bearing and resistance, can not only slow the onset of age-related bone loss, but has even been found to reverse a moderate degree of bone loss.
Benefits of exercise for frail bones
Many patients who are diagnosed with low bone density avoid exercising, fearing that they will break or damage their bones further. On the contrary, daily activity can help to ease any problems with osteoporosis and will slow the progression of the condition. Building bone strength and increasing bone mass are very important; a combination of weight bearing and resistance training exercises are the best way to accomplish these goals.
Weight-bearing exercises are the most important step towards helping to prevent the onset of age-related bone loss. Walking, jogging, climbing stairs and dancing are all examples of excellent weight-bearing exercises. Simply taking a walk for a few hours every day can be of enormous benefit to the bones.
Non-weight bearing exercises, such as biking, swimming and rowing, while not particularly beneficial to the bones and bone loss, do have a positive effect on the overall health and well-being of the body and so should not be forgotten.
Finally, strength training may increase bone density. Lifting light weights, using slow and controlled strokes, may increase the density of bones. Resistance can be increased as the body becomes stronger.
The importance of exercise safety
It is important to keep certain tips and advice of safety in mind when beginning an exercise regimen. The degree of bone loss is the primary basis for what exercises and activities are appropriate. A doctor may assess the density of the bones and estimate the risk of fracture by using a scanning device, usually a special X-ray machine, to measure the density of the bones. Doctors may prescribe medications to slow bone loss and may advise patients to buy Fosamax or a similar prescription.
Many injuries benefit from the opportunity to warm-up the body before each exercising sessions and work through a cool-down after concluding the exercise regimen. Completing these pre and post-workout sessions will help prepare the body properly for exercise, as well as adding to the workout by providing low-impact exercise.