Prevent osteoporosis – no matter what your age.
Illustration: Mikke Gallardo
You may think you’re young and invincible, but don’t wait till you’ve snapped a joint or fractured a rib before you start paying attention to your bones. Time is ticking, and you have to attain your peak bone mass by age 30 because from that point onwards, it will gradually be depleted. The speed of deterioration will increase even more significantly with menopause. The good news? Being active can slow down the rate of bone loss. Exercising is said to release calcium into the bone at a higher rate, which helps to strengthen them, says Margarida Ferrao, operation director at Vivafit, a women-only gym in Singapore. A full body workout is best as you get to strengthen more muscles and bones at the same time, she adds. So slip on your favourite kicks and try these expert-recommended workouts to give your skeleton the support it really needs.
IN YOUR 20s
Since bones are still growing at this stage (and you’re unlikely to have major joint injuries), this is the best time to clock in a harder workout to maximise tissue formation.
BEST EXERCISES Moderate to intense cardiovascular activities such as running, and plyometric (fast, explosive movements) exercises like volleyball, jumping as well as dancing.
WHY High impact weight-bearing activities that make you work against gravity to stay upright require muscles and bones to bear the weight of the body, strengthening them at the same time, says Margarida. Dr Ng Chung Sien, sports physician at Changi Sports Medicine Centre adds: “Cardiovascular exercise has also been proven to provide the greatest benefits in terms of prevention and treatment of specific conditions in women such as breast cancer and osteoporosis as well as chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease.”
IN YOUR 30s
By the time you hit your 30s, maximum bone mass would have been achieved. This will plateau for a while before age-related decline sets in.
BEST EXERCISES Combine weight-bearing exercises such as aerobics and dancing with resistance training. Dr Ng also suggests doing step aerobics and line/tap dancing that incorporate “stomping” motions. “These are good examples of weight-bearing exercises that can help to stimulate bone strengthening,” he says. “Do note that merely stomping the ground alone is not recommended as such movements may cause leg and foot injuries,” he cautions.
WHY Your muscles aren’t the only ones to benefit from weight lifting. Bone density has also been found to increase significantly in postmenopausal women who engage in such activities, reports a 2006 study published in Osteoporosis International. Plus, as bone adapts to the stress placed on it, resistance from machines, dumbbells, tubes or your own body weight directly translates to a tougher and healthier frame over time.
IN YOUR 40s
The drop in oestrogen (a hormone that suppresses osteoclasts) during menopause can speed up bone loss in menopausal women.
BEST EXERCISES Besides paying attention to your cardiovascular health, pick resistance exercises that focus on the back and hips as well as those that improve balance, such as yoga and pilates.
WHY Bone loss is most prominent in the back and hips, so strengthen them at least two times per week. Circuit training comprising eight to 10 different moves done in three sets of eight to 15 repetitions is ideal, says Margarida. However, if you have or are at high risk of osteoporosis, avoid forward bends like those done during yoga, warns Dr Ng. “Exercises that require excessive forward flexion of the spine as well as explosive twisting movements at the joint greatly increase the risk of spinal compression fractures, which typically occur at the spine, wrist and hip bones,” he explains.