Check out this graphic that shows bone mass cycle in women. I was fortunate enough to know when I was 25 that my body was at peak bone mass. I knew needed to take steps then to maintain bone density to carry me into my future. Osteoporosis prevention starts far earlier than most women realize. The good news is that it’s never too late to improve bone density even if you have already lost some.
Both nutrition and exercise play a key role in preventing and reversing osteoporosis. Since Pilates is my area of expertise I will focus this article on exercise. The most common areas of the body to be effected by osteoporosis are the wrists, spine, shoulders and hips. Your Pilates teacher is well educated on what exercises to avoid and include if you have osteoporosis in your spine so I am not going to discuss those precautions here. Just ask your teacher.
The best exercises for building bone density are weight bearing exercises. Weight bearing exercises put good stress on our bones and stimulate new bone growth. With standing exercises to stimulate bone growth in the hips, the weight must be more than just your own body weight. Some research says that 2 times your body weight is enough to build bone strength. Some research says 4-8 times your body weight is needed. Simply standing on one leg increase the weight on that leg by at least 2 times. Check out the simple exercises I have included here that you can do anywhere anytime. See if you can recognize where we do variations of these exercises in our Pilates sessions.
- On the Reformer add some heavy springs… the squat becomes “footwork heels”.
- This one could be “standing hip hinge”.
- I do this one in many private sessions add a magic circle of upper body integration.
- We can add stepping onto the long box in any class and often do this in the Arc class.
- You have seen a good number of lunge variations all around the studio.
Research shows that the best weight bearing exercise for building bone is jumping. Unfortunately jumping isn’t great for joints especially in older people. Stomping can be a good alternative or even heel dropping can create an impact great enough to get those bones stronger. Simply stand on a firm surface barefoot, raise your heels and drop down. Keep your core engaged to support your spine and hold onto a chair or wall for balance.
One study showed that standing on one leg for one minute gave subjects as much bone density benefit as walking for 53 minutes, wow! Too bad the same wasn’t true for cardiovascular benefits.
You will be seeing and hearing a lot about bone density and posture all month as we celebrate Posture Month and Mother’s Day. Don’t forget about our Mother’s Day Special.