Why Light Exercise Can Help Your Bones
Bone loss in menopausal women is relatively common. Postmenopausal osteoporosis is one of the most widely reported illnesses that women suffer from toward the end of their lives. As bone density decreases, women are at higher risk of fracturing bones and having difficulty healing from it. While there are a multitude of ways to help combat this issue, the best preventative measure is to do light exercises.
Why does bone loss happen during and after menopause?
In perimenopause estrogen levels start to drop. Estrogen, the hormone primarily known to help regulate the female sexual reproductive system, also helps to maintain bone health.
Light to moderate strength training exercises are proven to help reduce the risk of fracturing bones. The muscle tissue that surrounds bones acts as a protective layer of padding between the skeletal system and the environment. It also strengthens areas of the body that are more susceptible to injury, primarily the joints. Exercises that can help build muscle can strengthen these areas.
Although many women exercise in their daily lives, it's essential to know what types of exercises can help prevent the likelihood of bones breaking during the stages of menopause. The best kinds of exercises to combat this issue are weight-bearing and resistance exercises. Both of these activities help strengthen muscles and prevent bone density from further deteriorating.
What exercises, specifically, can women introduce into their routines to help promote bone health?
Weight-bearing exercises are exercises in which the body works against the force of gravity, carrying a person's full body weight. Lower body exercises are often grouped under this category. However, there are forms of upper body exercises that can be altered to yield similar results.
Push-ups can be difficult even as a young woman. However, there are ways push-ups can be incorporated into a daily routine without being too strenuous. Wall-push ups are a great form of this exercise. They help build upper body muscles in the shoulders. As the arms compress, the weight of the upper body is placed on the bones in the arms and chest. As the body pushes away from the wall, the muscles in the arms pull on the bones, making them stronger.
Wall push-ups help to strengthen the upper body. Lunges help to improve the lower body, particularly joints like the knees and ankles. Forward lunges help strengthen the knees and calves by placing all body weight on the front leg before stepping back. As a result, the muscle tissue surrounding the knee forms a protective layer around the knee socket. Lunges are a great exercise to help stabilize the lower body and prevent bone loss in the knee joints.
While lunges help strengthen the legs, squats aid in strengthening the hips and the core. These are the two most heavily reported problem areas in menopausal women. Joint pain in the hips has an impact on the midsection, often resulting in sharp shooting pain akin to menstrual cramps. Squats help relieve some of these symptoms by placing pressure on the hip joints to help strengthen existing bone density.
Yoga has been known to help promote flexibility, relieve stress, and improve muscle tension. However, it has some positive effects on bone health as well. Holding poses in yoga can help stretch muscle tissue and fortify joints in the upper and lower body. Additionally, yoga exercises aid in relaxation and stress relief. This sense of relaxation, coupled with the prevention of decreasing bone density, can provide significant relief to menopausal women.
Similar to yoga, pilates provides several benefits to the body. It can assist in the prevention of bone loss, and it can help increase cardiovascular health. Leg lifts are ideal for targeting and strengthening hips. While dynamic alignments help improve the upper body and strengthen the core. Pilates exercises also help promote bone health by utilizing resistance-based exercises. These activities use the push and pull of motion to help place full body-weight on most of the bones in the body.
Resistance exercises are exercises that force skeletal muscles to contract. These exercises are meant to increase muscle mass, bone strength, and endurance.
1) Side Raise
Side raises are excellent for the upper body and back. This exercise helps work the Latissimus Dorsi muscles, which are located just beneath the shoulder blades. By placing both feet on a resistance band, take both ends of the band in the hands. Slowly outstretch the arms until they are completely perpendicular to the body then lower them until they rest against the body naturally. Using this stretch can help strengthen the upper body.
2) Shoulder Press
Apart from the knee joints, shoulder joints are one of the most sensitive areas on the body. Without muscle, the likelihood of these joints dislocating or fracturing increases, especially during menopausal bone loss. Shoulder presses are a resistance exercise that can help build muscles around the shoulder joints and prevent them from being damaged. Stepping on a resistance band and raising the arms over the head, muscles along the shoulders pull on the joints. This weight training exercise helps keep bone density in the shoulder joints intact.
3) Chest Press
Chest presses, while they may work most of the upper body, they can also help provide a full-body workout depending on the position and the degree of stretch. Place one foot behind the body and step on the resistance band. Then, taking the ends of the band in each hand, stretch the arms outward toward the opposite wall. With the arms still raised, bring them back into the chest, similar to a push-up. This exercise will not only help build the muscles in the upper body, but it will also help strengthen the ribcage.
4) Side Leg Raise
Weight-bearing exercises are not the only forms of exercise to help strengthen the bones in the lower body. Side leg raises can be a fundamental tool in helping increase bone strength throughout the hips and legs. Wrap a resistance band around the legs just above the ankles. Stand with both feet a few inches apart. Then raise one of the legs outward and to the side. Raise the leg until the resistance band is taut. Then lower the leg back down until both feet meet.
By performing this exercise, the muscles of the entire lower body become stronger, from the hips down to the calves.
5) Bicep Curl
The upper body muscles are the most difficult to maintain for women as they go through menopause. Muscle tension in the body becomes slack and loses its elasticity as estrogen depletes. As a result, upper body strength and bone health suffers from a lack of muscular development. Bicep curls can help prevent that depletion by helping maintain muscle tissue in the upper arms.
A bicep curl is an excellent tool to help muscular development. Stand on the resistance band shoulder-width apart. Then, taking both ends of the band in each hand, curl the arms upward at the elbows. Bring the forearms up to the chest before lowering them down to rest at the sides. This exercise can help preserve bone health and retain muscle mass.
To gain better insight into how exercise helps promote bone health during menopause, here are a few research studies that take an in-depth look into postmenopausal osteoporosis.
- Exercise and bone health across the lifespan
- Effects of Two Different Neuromuscular Training Protocols on Regional Bone Mass in Postmenopausal Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial
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