Easy Steps to Reduce Your Osteoporosis Risk, Part 1

lisa-snowBuild Your Bones by Strengthening Your Muscles & Your Mind

Women in their teens and twenties have a golden opportunity to build as much bone as possible, while women in their 30s, 40s, and 50s can prevent bone loss and dramatically reduce their risk of osteoporosis.  Part 1 of this article covers two crucial factors: resistance training and a positive mindset.  Part 2 will cover the astonishing new research on the best ways to meet your needs for two essential nutrients: calcium & vitamin D.

Go to the average American gym and you’ll see dozens of young women pedaling stationary bicycles and gliding along on elliptical trainers.  While these two machines do burn calories and get the heart rate up (which is good), they’re the two least effective ways for women to build bone mass.  Meanwhile, you’ll see less women running on the treadmills (which is somewhat more effective), and a lot less women lifting weights (which is dramatically more effective).  We already know that most American women are sedentary.  Add the fact that the few women who are exercising are spending their workout time on types of exercise that do not reduce their osteoporosis risk, and we have a public health disaster.

How have both the fitness industry and the health care industry allowed this to occur?  The fitness industry has allowed women to go on believing the dangerous lie that strength training with weights will make them “bulk up,” “look masculine,” or “turn into bodybuilders.”  No one in the media seems to fact-check these claims.  If people realized that gymnasts, figure skaters, marathon runners, and other extremely slim female athletes lift very heavy weights as a routine part of their training, the average woman would realize just how preposterous it is to think that lifting weights will make them build huge muscles.  Meanwhile, the health care industry—doctors, hospitals, and the mainstream media that relies on them—focuses more on treatment than prevention.  The few conversations they do have about prevention mostly advise women to eat more calcium and do “weight bearing exercise.”  The average woman understandably misinterprets this advice to mean walking.  If you are an 87 year old who already has osteoporosis, walking around the neighborhood is weight bearing exercise—for you.  But for healthy women in their 20s-60s and beyond, the kind of weight bearing exercise that actually reduces osteoporosis risk is lifting weights!  Sadly, but unsurprisingly, both the fitness industry and the medical industry refuse to take responsibility for this situation, instead claiming that members of the public should “take personal responsibility” for their health.  How can people “take responsibility” when they are constantly given misinformation?  And since consumers pay fitness professionals and medical professionals for advice, don’t they share responsibility for clients’ and patients’ health outcomes?

Instead of waiting for gyms, doctors and the media to catch up, many women are taking immediate action on reducing their own osteoporosis risk!  They’re running, jogging, and lifting weights instead of (or in addition to) doing non-weight bearing activities.  We know weight lifting helps women maintain muscle mass as they age, helping them look younger and feel stronger.  But why is weight lifting so powerful for reducing osteoporosis risk?  What most women don’t realize  is that strengthening muscles also strengthens bones!  You can’t build one without building the other.

In addition to strengthening their bones and muscles, many smart women have also figured out that strengthening your mindset is another part of osteoporosis risk reduction.  They’ve realized that even if their mother, grandmother, or great-grandmother had osteoporosis  it doesn’t mean they will.  As a disease heavily influenced by lifestyle factors, osteoporosis isn’t inevitable!  The more you see yourself as strong, the more physically strong you can become.  Similarly, the more physical strength you build, the more your self-confidence grows.

The types of exercises that truly help women reduce their osteoporosis risk aren’t difficult or complicated!  But they do require you to step a little outside your comfort zone and try something new.  While there are many excellent books and DVDs on weight lifting for women, here are a couple of routines to get you started.  The first routine involves absolutely no equipment.  It’s perfect for a young woman who’s a complete beginner, or a senior who is already at risk for osteoporosis.  The second routine uses just a couple of pairs of dumbbells, and the exercises can easily be performed at home or at your local gym.  It’s geared toward healthy women who can already perform simple bodyweight moves and are ready to add a little resistance from weights.  Try to do 1-2 sets of 10-15 repetitions each.  If you feel like you could do 20 or 25 reps with the weight you’re using, it’s too light!  Even women who can only use 5-10 lb dumbbells for arm exercises can often start with 20-25 lb dumbbells for these exercises, which focus on the legs and back.  Many women can gradually work up to 40-50 lb dumbbells for these types of lower body exercises.

BEGINNER ROUTINE – NO EQUIPMENT:

(Click the name of each exercise to view photos and instructions.)

Stability Ball Wall Squats

Seated Straddle Stretch (Center)

Warrior 1 

Seated Straddle Stretch (Sides)

Bodyweight Squats

Supine (Lying) Hamstring Stretch

Bodyweight Lunges

Knee Pushup

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

2 Leg Bridge

INTERMEDIATE ROUTINE – DUMBBELLS & BODYWEIGHT:

(Click the name of each exercise to view photos and instructions.)

Downward Dog 

Lunge & Press

Side Lunge

Seated Straddle Stretch (Center)

Deadlift 

Step-ups 

Seated Straddle Stretch (Sides) 

1-Leg Romanian Deadlift 

Dumbbell Front Squat

Supine (Lying) Hamstring Stretch

Pushup 

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

1 Leg Bridge 

Inchworm 

 

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