Bone density gradually begins to decline as we age, and most of us also become less active. For women, bone loss is usually most rapid during the first few years after menopause. Exercise, healthy eating and other lifestyle changes can slow the bone loss that usually occurs as we age and may help to reduce the risk of our bones breaking. If you are new to exercise or thinking of starting something new, choose an activity that is compatible with your lifestyle that you enjoy and that is effective for improving bone strength. Not all forms of exercise stimulate bone. Exercise that is useful for reducing the risk of heart disease will not necessarily build bone density. Swimming and cycling, for example, are excellent forms of exercise for improving the fitness and function of the heart and lungs, but these activities are not weight-bearing and do not affect bone density.
A sedentary lifestyle, poor posture, poor balance and weak muscles increase the risk of fractures. A person with osteoporosis can improve their health with exercise in valuable ways, including:
- Reduction of bone loss
- Conservation of remaining bone tissue
- Improved physical fitness
- Improved muscle strength
- Improved reaction time
- Increased mobility
- Better sense of balance and coordination
- Reduced risk of bone fractures caused by falls
- Reduced pain
- Better mood and vitality.
If you have osteoporosis, you might mistakenly think exercise will lead to fracture. In fact, though, using your muscles helps protect your bones.
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One in two women and one in five men over the age of 50 in the UK will fracture a bone, mainly due to poor bone health.