Reviewed by Michelle MacDonald, MS, RDN, CDE, Tommy Hughes, PT, DPT

How can you prevent osteoporosis through diet and exercise?

Building strong bones, especially before the age of 35, can be the best defense against developing osteoporosis. A healthy lifestyle is also important for keeping bones strong to prevent osteoporosis.

 

Here are five tips to help prevent and treat osteoporosis:

Exercise

Exercise that forces you to work against gravity — weight-bearing exercise such as brisk walking or jogging — helps prevent osteoporosis. It is important for the exercises performed to be gravity-dependent. Exercise in the water and bicycle exercise are beneficial for the cardiovascular (heart) system, but because they are gravity-lessened exercises, there will not be as much benefit to bone density. Land-based weight-bearing exercise provides the most benefit to preventing osteoporosis. Safe and effective weight-bearing exercises include walking, hiking and stair climbing. High-impact exercise such as running/jogging, high-impact aerobics and jumping rope can be very beneficial, however, it is important to discuss with your doctor or physical therapist if high-impact aerobics/exercise is safe for you. The benefits of exercise last only as long as you keep exercising.

Strength training using resistance (weights, machines, elastic bands) is also important for bone and muscle health. Increased strength training can increase or maintain bone density due to the forces that act on the bone when a muscle is actively challenged with resistance. Types of exercises for resistance training include free weights, weight machines and resistance bands.

Posture is very important in prevention of spinal fractures and is important for maintaining function and improving back pain. It is important to maintain upright posture when performing strength exercises. Avoiding bending and twisting when accomplishing tasks such as picking items off the floor, tying shoes, doing laundry and transfer from one surface to another is very important in preventing fractures, falls and back pain. Speak to a physical therapist to assist in guiding correct form and posture during exercises and when completing activities of daily living.

Performing balance training is important to decrease fall risk. Your doctor or physical therapist may prescribe specific balance exercises for you that can safely be done at home to increase balance during standing, transfers and walking.

Talk with your health care provider or ask for a referral to a physical therapist to learn what type of exercise you can do safely, not only to preserve bone and prevent osteoporosis, but also to strengthen your back and hips, maintain flexibility and reduce the risk of falling.

 

Eat a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D

Calcium is important for all age groups to help build healthy, strong bones throughout life. To make sure that a lack of calcium is not weakening your bones, eat foods rich in calcium. These include dairy products and dark leafy and green vegetables. Adults need between 1,000 and 1,200 mg of calcium and 600 to 800IU of vitamin D each day. The average American diet, including dairy products, contains only 600 mg of calcium each day. A child's requirement for calcium and vitamin D varies with age. Check with your child's doctor for requirements.

 

Limit preformed vitamin A (retinol)

It’s best to get vitamin A from food instead of dietary supplements. Retinol is a form of preformed vitamin A in supplements. High intakes of retinol may lead to decreased bone density and increased risk of bone fracture. Limit your intake of preformed vitamin A to less than  2,000 IU per day.

 

Limit alcohol intake

The seriousness of alcohol's effect on osteoporosis depends on how much and how often you drink alcohol.

 

Stop smoking

Smoking can lead to osteoporosis. There are multiple reasons to quit smoking, including increasing your risk of osteoporosis.

 

Use appropriate supplements

Take calcium and vitamin D supplements as recommended by your health care provider.

 

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