This article on Osteoporosis was originally featured in Your Wellness Magazine and is written by Senior Physiotherapist and Fitness Coach, Meenakshi S.
Aches are a normal part of aging, but it’s important to know when pain may be signalling something more. In women, bone mass or density starts to decrease after 35 years of age and can lead to a condition known as osteoporosis. Literally translated as ‘porous bones’, osteoporosis causes the thinning or weakening of bones, leaving those at risk susceptible to painful fractures.
Once considered a disease that plagued older women, osteoporosis is now classified as a paediatric disorder that manifests in old age. Peak bone mass and strength, which girls achieve in their 20s, predicts future fracture risk. Research has also shown that the rate at which we accrue bone mineral is highest during late childhood and early adolescence. That is why I believe it is critical to promote bone-healthy behaviours in children and teens.
Diet, exercise & yoga can help women stay fit
A calcium-rich diet is key to prevent the onset of osteoporosis. I’d recommend including plenty of dairy and soy products, dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, almonds, sesame seeds, oatmeal, white beans, ragi, horse gram, rajma and salmon in your diet, to help build a mineral reserve. Also ensure you get enough zinc, manganese, and copper through nuts, berries, tomatoes and peas as these trace minerals facilitate calcium absorption in the body. Vitamins K and D are also critical for strengthening bones and calcium absorption.
Weight-bearing and resistance exercises are essential to build bone health. I’d suggest low impact weight-bearing exercises such as brisk walking, light aerobics and jogging intermittently. You can try lifting your own body weight, using a weight machine or functionalmovements such as standing and rising up on your toes.
Yoga poses such as Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) and Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2) can also help counter bone loss. If you’ve already been diagnosed with osteoporosis, consult a doctor before performing any of these exercises.
Managing osteoporosis in older women
Near or at the onset of menopause, a woman’s body loses the ability to produce normal levels of estrogen. This is a leading cause of bone mass reduction. Irrespective of age, I’d say regular physical activity and good nutrition is the best way to maintain bone health.