If you're an athlete, osteoporosis may be the least of your health concerns. Many athletes mistakenly think they're not at risk for osteoporosis later in life because they exercise, and exercise has been shown to strengthen bones. However, the type of exercise you choose plays a big part in your bone health.
Research has shown that exercise can help build and maintain bone density at any age. But when it comes to preventing osteoporosis, not all exercise is created equal. If you usually opt for cardiovascular exercises like swimming, cycling or walking, your exercise is helping your heart, but your bones may still be at risk.
To boost your bone health, try adding weight-bearing exercises to your
workout routine. They are the most effective at building bone because the force of muscles pulling against bone stimulates bone growth. Weight-bearing exercises include strength training or cardiovascular workouts that use the weight of your body to build bone.
Strength training includes the use of free weights, weight machines, resistance bands or water exercises to strengthen the muscles and bones in your arms and upper spine. One of the telltale signs of osteoporosis is a stooped posture. By stretching and strengthening your upper back and the muscles between your shoulder blades, you can help maintain your posture and prevent compression fractures in your spine later in life.
Weight-Bearing Aerobic Activities
Weight-bearing exercise isn't limited to lifting weights. Aerobic exercise done on your feet, with your bones supporting your weight, can strengthen your bones as well as your heart. Examples include aerobics classes, racquet sports, elliptical machines, and stair climbing. These types of exercise work directly on the bones in your legs, hips and lower spine to slow mineral loss.
Flexibility and Core Strenghtening Exercises
While flexibility exercises don't necessarily strengthen bones, by being able to move your joints through a full range of motion, you can maintain your balance and your posture as your body ages. Core strenthening exercises not only tighten the midsection, but also aid in posture, spine strength, and balance.
The Female Athlete Triad
Some women and girls who compete in sports that emphasize leanness can be at risk for a condition called the Female Athlete Triad. This includes low energy availability due to a low intake of calories compared to energy used during exercise, loss of the menstrual cycle, and decreased bone mineral density. Decreased bone density can cause an early onset of osteoporosis, and an increased risk of bone fractures. The Female Athlete Triad is a serious condition that should be treated by medical professionals right away.