As you age, it’s normal to expect that your body will get weaker. By the time you’re over 50, you may notice some weakness in your bones that could result in random unexplained pain. Bone loss is to be expected, but there are steps you can take to maintain your bone density and keep your bones from deteriorating, no matter how old you are.
Exercising is always a good idea. When you work out, your bones become stronger, as well as the protective muscles surrounding them. Excessive bone loss or osteoporosis can put you at risk for fracture, especially as you grow older. Some exercises are designed to help you prevent it and may even increase your bone density.
Consider adding the following activities to your fitness routine.
Exercises to prevent bone loss
Exercise has many health benefits but is essential for women over 50 who may be at risk for osteoporosis. You don’t have to go running or indulge in high-intensity workouts that could cause more pain. All you need to do is regular resistance training, at least 2-3 times per week, to help maintain your BMD (bone mass density) in your weight-bearing bones.
Resistance training pulls your muscles against your bones which strengthens them and prevents bone loss, even if you’re exercising moderately. There are a variety of exercises that help increase BMD and are moderately safe to do over the age of 50. They include:
Stretching is essential
Your muscles may also get stiff as you age and decrease your flexibility. But, if you keep working to maintain your flexibility as you get older, your bones will be protected and you’ll experience less bone loss. Stretching exercises increase your range of motion so you’ll remain agile and have less pain. It also helps protect your joints and reduces your risk of injury when you exercise or go about your daily tasks.
Make sure to stretch every day. There are two ways of doing this – static or dynamic stretching. Static stretches are light exercises requiring limited movement that you might do before or after your workouts. When you wake up in the morning do a little light stretching to energize yourself as you start your day.
Dynamic stretching involves more range of motion that actively engages your muscles and warms them up. Add dynamic stretching exercises into your workout routine, or practice basic yoga poses.
Don’t discount the benefits of stretching to increase flexibility. It will not only prevent bone loss but will help relieve chronic muscle and back pain. If you get into the habit of stretching every day, your entire core will become stronger, reducing pain even if you have to carry heavy objects.
A healthy diet
Eating a healthy diet combined with daily exercise and stretches is the next key to prevent bone loss. As bones begin to deteriorate with age, a number of bone-building foods will help you maintain bone density and strength. The two most important ingredients for healthy bones are calcium and vitamin D. They are especially important for women who are at risk for osteoporosis.
Calcium is the building block for strong bones, and vitamin D helps your body absorb it. The recommended dose of calcium for adults is 1,000 milligrams each day, and you need 600 IU of Vitamin D. Women over 50 may want to increase those doses to 1,200 mg of calcium and 800 IU of vitamin D per day.
Ideally, you should get your calcium and vitamin D from food, which includes:
- Dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese)
- Green leafy vegetables (broccoli, spinach, kale)
- Seafood (oysters, shrimp, crab)
- Fish (tuna, salmon, sardines)
- Soy and almond milk
If you are at risk for osteoporosis make sure to check with your doctor. Bone mineral density testing is recommended for women over 65 and your doctor will be able to recommend supplements if you are not getting enough from food alone.
Being fit and maintaining strong bones takes work and dedication but it’s manageable. Be diligent about paying attention to your diet, make sure to exercise regularly, and do some stretching each day.