Osteoporosis is a common disease that is characterized by low bone mass, a condition that results in an increased risk of fracture. Early diagnosis of bone loss and fracture risk are critical factors if one wants to reverse or lessen the progression of osteoporosis.
Once osteoporosis has been diagnosed, learning to manage it consists of modifying one’s lifestyle and undergoing pharmacologic therapy. Lifestyle modifications include adequate nutrition, moderating alcohol intake, stopping smoking, and engaging in regular weight-bearing physical training.
For women with osteoporosis, exercise is essential; they should train for at least 30 minutes three times a week (ACSM’s guideline). In a study that examined 9,704 women, physical activity was associated with a reduced risk for hip fracture. Furthermore, a meta-analysis showed that exercise reduced the occurrence of overall fractures in older adults.
Regular exercise has been found to have a positive impact on the bone mineral density (BMD) of premenopausal and postmenopausal women. For example, a meta-analysis of 4,320 subjects showed that exercise had a significant positive effect on BMD in the lumbar spine area among postmenopausal women.
An adequate diet for preventing and treating osteoporosis consists of sufficient calorie intake of the three main macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein). In addition to nutrient consumption, calcium and vitamin D are considered critically important dietary components for individuals with osteoporosis. As it can be challenging to achieve nutritional goals with diet alone, it is often necessary to supplement one’s intake of these two nutrients. Dietary intake of calcium should be approximately 1200 mg daily, and postmenopausal women need to ingest a total of 800 international units of vitamin D daily.
Type and Intensity of Exercise
Higher intensity and weight-bearing exercise regimens are recommended. At the same time, it is important to strike a balance between being consistent with the program and enjoying the process. With this in mind, one must remember that even moderate activities can provide great benefits as well.
Exercise training has been proven to improve bone density and is good at any age.
Here are a few interesting points regarding the relationship between physical activity and bone density in women between the ages of 20 and 40:
- Young women who were not active and sedentary showed 15% less bone mass than women in the same age bracket who were active.
- Two hours of jogging per week was shown to increase bone mass by 5% as compared with inactive women.
- Four hours of aerobic working was shown to produce an additional 10% increase when compared with inactive peers.
- Increasing the duration and intensity of aerobic exercise to more than 10 hours per week did not prove to elicit any further benefits in terms of bone strength.
- To achieve an additional 5% increase, it is necessary to supplement one’s exercise routine with resistance training (a minimum of 2 hours per week).