I just had my 45th birthday which solidly places me in the “middle aged” category.
I also work with many other women in this age range. For those of us that fall in this category, it means that around this time, doctors begin testing our bone density to screen for a condition called Osteoporosis.
If you are not really sure what that is, the Mayo Clinic describes it like this: “Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone doesn't keep up with the removal of old bone.”
The precursor to Osteoporosis is Osteopenia. This is “when your bones are weaker than normal but not so far gone that they break easily, which is the hallmark of osteoporosis” as described by WebMD.
Women over 50 are at the highest risk for this condition because our bones are not as dense as our male counterparts. We also don’t tend to get as much calcium as men, and we have crazy hormone changes occurring with menopause which can directly affect the strength of our bones.
This is all a big deal because, if our bones get weak, it means we can begin to get fractures in major joints, including the spine and hip. It can also mean joint pain and declining posture ... which most of us definitely don't need any more of. All of this equals NO FUN as we age.
Doctors can battle a diagnosis of Osteoporosis by prescribing drugs known as Bisphosphonates, however, the side effects of these medications include nausea and vomiting, anemia, and jaw bone pain among other things. Who wants that? Especially considering we can take strides to prevent ourselves from ever needing to battle it.
Prevention of osteoporosis comes in the form of eating right, ensuring adequate amounts of vitamin D and calcium, avoiding smoking and heavy drinking, and doing weight-bearing exercises. All totally manageable actions!
Don’t worry, though. Even if you have already been diagnosed with osteopenia, it does not mean you cannot make a change to your bone density by doing the same things I just talked about in prevention.
The importance of adding resistance training to your routine cannot be understated no matter where you are in life … and it doesn’t have to mean really heavy weight. It just means being consistent.
I have had more than one client diagnosed with Osteopenia early on when we met but, over time, they have gone back for re-testing after resistance training on a regular basis, and tests show that they actually increased their bone density. It’s totally possible!
I know that it’s difficult to make the choice to add resistance training to your life if this is not something you are accustomed to. This is why I will often have people ask if they can just walk regularly to help it. The answer is no. It’s not enough. While walking is great and necessary, in and of itself, it is not adequate to affect a significant change to your bone density score.
My advice is to start small. Recruit the help of a trainer or physical therapist to help you with a routine and get started on saving yourself a lot of pain and medication down the road with a diagnosis of Osteoporosis. You do have a choice...and your bones will thank you!