If you’re 40 and older and your bones, particularly your hips, wrists and back feel a bit weak and frail; it’s not your imagination. Prior to this stage in your life, your bones had already reached their maximum potential of robust health, thickness and sturdiness. Almost immediately following your 40th birthday, give or take a few years, your ovaries automatically began to slow down on their estrogen production, which indirectly effects the amount of calcium that your bones were accustomed to receiving from the calcium rich foods that you eat. This in turn began another decline as far as the speed at which the calcium is transferred into your bones. Whether you realize it or not, this is a big deal. From this time forward exercise is critical if for no other reason than you need to hold on to the bone health and strength you already have and not the other way around.
Exercise, especially the weight bearing type such as walking, running and cycling is important during this period. This type of exercise is very helpful during this transition period because it slows down bone loss, which at this time and stage is critical because dramatic bone loss will soon be an issue for several years until it levels off. This most certainly can make you very susceptible to fractures in your weakest areas, the wrist, hips and back. Although one might think a simple cure would be a supplementation of calcium during these critical years, however medical experts are quick to make sure people know that supplementation is not enough. Studies show that calcium supplements alone will not slow down the massive bone and mineral loss experienced to the degree needed during this period. Neither are there answers in the drugs used to treat osteoporosis. Many of these drugs contain fluoride, which increase bone mass a bit but fail to protect against fractures.
Good old exercise, as disappointing as it may be to some to hear, is still a tried and true bone builder. In fact, almost any type of physical activity encourages bone density, which is what we want and need. As mentioned before, the exercise is more helpful if it’s the kind that’s weight bearing like walking, running or cycling. You can also add strength training to that list.
Disturbed by the frequency of falls and fractures that middle aged to elderly women incur at the onset of menopause, Tufts University’s Dr. Miriam Russell has had an ongoing study for several years now that began with these groups of women. It’s called Strong Women Stay Young. They are seeing continuous and amazing results. One related study that sticks out in support of weight bearing exercise is one in which a large group of elderly women undertook the Strong Women challenge for an entire year. They used free weights and ankle wrap-around weights, which they adjusted and increased periodically, as they got stronger. After the one-year period, the study called in the older women’s daughters. The not so surprising result revealed that the mothers who had just completed the Strong Women Stay Young training had increased their bone mass and were much stronger than their younger inactive daughters. Here you have it. Your bone health tomorrow and in the future will literally depend on what you do about it today.