Did you know that the average Australian woman loses up to 10 per cent of their bone mass from their 50s onwards? This progressive breakdown makes women more at risk of developing osteoporosis, and becomes more problematic during menopause, when oestrogen levels fall considerably. A drop in oestrogen means a reduction in the activity of osteoblasts (the cells that produce and grow bones). So, as we age, it’s vital for women especially to be proactively looking for ways to prevent or slow down bone loss.
You can boost bone density at any stage of life, but it does get harder as we get older. In addition to ensuring that we maintain a viable intake of calcium and vitamin C, exercise is essential when it comes to building and maintaining strong, healthy bones. Most people know that exercise helps to increase muscle size, strength, balance and coordination. And guess what? All of these things are great for our bones too!
As a woman in my 60s, I know how intimidating it can be to start a new form of exercise. However, it is important that we continue to look for different ways to move our bodies, and our bones will thank us for it later. For many of my clients over 60, balance and mobility exercises are super important. These forms of exercise may not specifically strengthen bones, but they can help improve balance and coordination, which can reduce your risk of falls and breakages.
Let’s look at three simple ways we can boost our bone health:
1. Get walking
Most people I work with tell me how much they love walking! In fact, many of my clients use walking as their primary movement pattern. Walking – and light jogging – are two easy and inexpensive ways to do aerobic exercise. Walking can reduce bone stiffness and build muscle strength, which in turn protects our bones. I am a big believer in incidental exercise, so why not walk instead of driving to the shops, or make your next coffee catch-up one that’s on the go?
2. Lift those weights
When most people think of weight lifting, they think of 20-year-old gym junkies. However weight-bearing exercises, such as resistance training, are the best way to strengthen your bones and maintain their density as you age. Chest presses, leg presses, lat pulldowns and rows are a few great exercises you can do from a suitable gym facility. If you are exercising at home, I highly recommend investing in a pair of dumbbell weights. These can be used in simple, repeated exercises, such as bicep curls and overhead presses.
3. Attend a group fitness class
For those who love to socialise, group fitness classes are a great option, incorporating cardio, strength, balance, functionality, mobility, core work and flexibility. My group fitness classes are attended by mostly over 60s. We do lunges, squats and back exercises with weights and push ups, and many more muscle conditioning exercises – all while having a laugh! Exercise should be fun. These exercises strengthen all the major limbs and improve balance, thus ensuring that we reduce the risk of falls and fractures.
Remember: If you haven’t exercised for a while, start slow. There’s no rush. Try 10 minutes of gentle walking and build up from there. Remember, it’s always best to check in with a medical professional before you start a new exercise regime.
For more advice on how to boost your bone health, follow the Bone Health Foundation via their website or Instagram account. Based in Adelaide, the foundation is one of Australia’s leading organisational bodies encouraging people of all ages to improve their bone health.