Osteoporosis is more often thought of as a condition that affects women as they get older. Their skeletal frames are generally smaller than men and their bones can be less dense. That’s because most men and women typically don’t engage in the same type of physical activities. But, you may be surprised to know that many men also develop osteoporosis as they get older as well. If you’re an older man, you’ll want to know what you can do to prevent and/or reverse bone loss.
Men Get Osteoporosis Too – The Right Exercise Can Reverse It
Though we usually think of men as having bigger, stronger, denser bones, over 16 million older men in the United States actually have low bone mass. And you could be one of them. This leaves you at high risk for developing both osteoporosis and devastating fractures.
Many men’s exercise programs focus on building muscle mass to offset muscle decrease as men age. And that’s a good thing, but exercise that focuses on building density in bones is also needed.
That’s where the research out of the University of Missouri Columbia comes in. Researchers in the Nutrition and Exercise Physiology Department there found that jumping and specific weight “loading” exercise dramatically increased bone in the older men they studied.
The researchers focused on 38 middle-aged, physically active, relatively healthy men who completed either a jumping, or weight lifting, program for a year, 60-120 minutes per week. The men also supplemented their diets with calcium and Vitamin D. The men’s bone mass was measured at the beginning and then at 6 and 12 month intervals using special x-ray scans of their entire body.
The results showed that the men’s bone density in their whole body and lumbar spine greatly increased in only 6 months in either the jumping or weight lifting programs. This increase was also maintained, or greater, at the 12-month interval. However, hip bone density increases only occurred in the men who also did weight training.
The researchers found that only specific “weight loading” type exercise benefitted the density of the hip and spine. These include exercises like squats, lunges, dead lift (weights), and the overhead press. The intensity of these exercises also need to increase over time, the researchers found, to build strength. Rest periods were also important in the bone building process in a stimulate, rest, grow type of pattern. The researchers concluded that this type of exercise should be done on a preventative basis to ward off bone loss. But, they advised that it could also be done on a prescription basis to help men with low bone mass, or osteoporosis, rebuild bone.
How You Can Build Your Bone Density
You don’t need to participate in a big University study to be successful at re-building your bone density. In fact, you don’t even have to go to a gym, but you may like to get a trainer to teach you proper exercise form to prevent injury. If you haven’t been told you have low bone mass before, you may want to ask your doctor for a DEXA scan to see what shape your bones are in and be sure you’re bones and muscles are in good enough shape to start a building program.
The following are a few simple exercises you can do to help you build bone. Do them 3-4 times a week. But, first, before you start exercising, always do a good 10 minute stretch with the following:
• Reach your hands over your head and touch the floor several times.
• Bend side to side with one arm held above, pointing toward the ceiling, then repeat other side.
• Hold onto a table top, or chair back, and extend your leg backward. Flex your heel toward the floor to stretch thigh, hamstring and foot muscles.
• Do arm circles 20 rotations forward, 20 back with palms up.
• Extend one arm across your chest, take hold of it with your free arm, gently pull it further across to feel a stretch in the backs of your arms. Repeat other side.
Then, once you’re warmed up, here are 4 simple ways to strengthen your bones:
1. Hip kick. Hold onto a table top, chair, or brace against a wall. You can even do this while waiting for your coffee to brew, water to boil, etc. Then, lift your right leg out to the side, until you feel tension in your hip muscle. Return your leg to starting position, then lift it out behind you, return to position, then out in front of you. Repeat a set of 8 exercises then turn to the other side, and repeat exercise on the left leg for 8 repetitions. As you build strength, add ankle weights to increase stress on the bone.
2. Chair rise. Many people can’t get up from a chair or couch without using their hands. Sit at the edge of the chair/couch, and clasp your arms in front of you, feet planted firmly on the floor. Shift your weight onto your feet and stand without using your hands. It may take some practice to master this, but it helps build bone (and muscle) strength in the hips, lower spine, and thighs.
3. Hard-Step/Jump Dance. This can be any dance where your feet impact the floor forcefully, but carefully. Dances like hip-hop, zumba, and even jumping side to side, helps build dense lower spine, hip, thigh, calf and ankle bones. Be sure to wear good supportive, non-slip athletic shoes though. Mini-rebounders also work well and actually help you do jumping jacks and squat jumps. Turn on the music and bounce.
4. Basketball. Running around on a basketball floor or cement, jumping to make a shot, are excellent moves to build bone density throughout your entire body. Get a friend to play with you or go solo, but spend at least 20-30 minutes at it.
If you belong to a gym, ask a trainer to show you some good weight lifting techniques that include squatting, lunges and dead lifts. Start with lighter weights until you’ve got the proper form down. Before you know it, you’ll start feeling greater strength in your movements.