Chances are, you have spent some time checking yourself out in the mirror. It’s okay—we’ve all done it. After months of activity and exercise, it’s very satisfying to see definition in your muscles, or that goal weight on your scale. But toned arms and a smaller waistline aren’t the only contributing factors for a fabulous figure. You can’t ignore the frame your kickin’ bod is built on: your bones.
After age 30, we slowly start to lose bone mass. In fact, one in two women—that’s 50%, people—will be diagnosed with osteoporosis and be at high risk for fracture in their lifetime. But it’s not just fracture you have to worry about. Thinning of the bones is what leads to the slouched posture that sometimes comes with age. But the good news is there are many things we can do to preserve our bone health for the future to ensure we have a sturdy frame to carry us through life and keep us active well into our golden years.
- Get going. Weight bearing aerobic exercise will help you maintain bone density throughout your lifetime. Certain exercises, such as walking, running, aerobic exercise classes or stair climbing will stimulate more bone growth than other types of exercises, such as biking or swimming.
- Get your pump on. Weight lifting causes muscles to pull on our bones, which also stimulates bone density. Some of the most important muscles to strengthen are buttocks and thigh muscles to support the hips, and back and shoulder muscles to support the spine and promote good posture. Strengthening exercises in weight-bearing positions are best—think squats, lunges and push-ups. And ladies, remember—weight lifting isn’t just for men.
- Ensure good posture. Now, I’m not saying this is easy—we fight the weight of gravity all day, pushing our head and shoulders forward. Try this: take a look in the mirror at your side profile. Your ear, shoulder and the side of your hip should all line up. Try to keep yourself in this alignment most of the day—and if you have a desk job, be sure to get up every 30 minutes or so to stretch.
- Be flexible. You might not think about flexibility as important to maintaining bone health, but think again! Flexibility in the front of the chest and spine helps you keep your posture upright—and I think I’ve drilled home how important that is.
- Drink your milk! Maintaining a healthy diet of foods rich in calcium and vitamin D will help keep your frame strong. Talk to your doctor about calcium and vitamin D supplements if you feel your diet is insufficient.
- Kick butts… and soda. As if you needed another reason to kick your nicotine habit, smoking has been shown to lead to bone loss. The other bad news? So do caffeinated beverages. Try to cut back on the coffee and soda to keep your frame solid.
The earlier you implement these lifestyle changes to counteract bone loss, the better—but it’s never too late to start.
If you’re concerned about osteoporosis, the Osteoporosis Clinic at Magee Rehabilitation’s Riverfront Wellness Center offers free screenings on the first Friday of every month from 1 – 4 p.m. To schedule your appointment, please call (215) 218-3900. The test only takes a few minutes and can aid your doctors in the diagnosis of osteoporosis.
Originally appeared on the Philly.com Sports Doc blog on February 27, 2103.