What Causes Osteoporosis in Women Over 50
Osteoporosis isn’t inevitable, but it’s much more likely for some older women than others. A combination of genetics, lifestyle, eating habits, and hormone levels can contribute to weakening bones and a loss of bone density as we age.
Your doctor is the best person to talk to about your own body and bones, and he or she can speak to your personal risk factors. But generally, most menopausal women are at some risk for osteoporosis, and there’s no reason not to mitigate that risk with muscle-building exercises. Again, as long as you have your doctor’s approval.
Does Building Muscle Prevent Osteoporosis?
Here’s a mouthful:
To stimulate the osteogenic effects for bone mass accretion, bone tissues must be exposed to mechanical load exceeding those experienced during daily living activities.1
Translation: in order to build bone, you have to participate in exercises that cause you to bear a greater load than you would in normal activities. This means that typical activities like working at your desk, doing dishes, sweeping, snuggling with your cat – all the things that many of us women over 50 participate in every day – aren’t enough to protect our bones from osteoporosis.
Our bones need to experience the stress of extra weight and/or extra impact. Walking is WONDERFUL for many things, and it helps a tiny bit with bone health–but not enough. Jogging is even better because your bones experience a greater impact than they do when you walk.
Unfortunately, jogging isn’t always possible for people with chronic knee and foot pain, and some women of any age aren’t able to add jogging or running to their fitness routine. On top of that, walking or jogging only helps the bones in your lower body; the bones in your arms don’t get the benefits of a jog, even as the bones in your legs and hips do.
Numerous studies have shown that weight-bearing exercise can help to slow bone loss, and several show it can even build bone. Activities that put stress on bones stimulate extra deposits of calcium and nudge bone-forming cells into action. The tugging and pushing on bone that occur during strength and power training provide the stress. The result is stronger, denser bones.2
“The tugging and pushing on bone…” That sounds kind of brutal, but that’s exactly what happens to our bones when we do any kind of toning or strength building exercises, even with a two-pound hand weight!
What if you’re over 50, and you haven’t yet incorporated strength training into your fitness routine? Is it possible to build enough muscle at this age to prevent osteoporosis?
Strength, resistance, and toning can help build bone so that not only do you potentially reduce the risk of osteoporosis, you actually build bone density so that your bones are even stronger. It might not reverse osteoporosis. I’m certainly not gonna promise you that it will prevent it completely. Again, only your doctor will know exactly what your bones need, but typically adding strength training can only help.
Does that mean that we need to work out even harder and lift heavier weights in order to reverse bone density losses? No, thank goodness. Studies have shown that lifting moderately heavy weights, just like we do around here, regularly and consistently, is the key to maintaining and even building muscles and bones.
Doing strength workouts with dumbbells two or three times a week is exactly what you need to get strong and keep your bones healthy.
One of My Favorite Strength Building + Toning Exercises to Help Prevent Osteoporosis in Older Women
Now that we’ve made it through the technical stuff, let’s start building muscle! This is one of my favorite muscle-building workouts for women over 50, so grab your dumbbells and hit that play button.
Or check out these free weight exercises to prevent or improve osteoporosis.