Exercise is one of the ways along with nutrition and other lifestyle factors that you can prevent excessive bone density loss in menopause. This is how it works…
Muscles and Bones
We tend to think of these as being separate, but much like the rest of the body, everything – and I mean everything – is connected. The muscles attach to the bones and they don’t just attach to the bone at one site, they kind of spread out around the bone through fascial connections. WHAAAAT? I hear you shout… think of it like a spider’s web, when you stick your face in one by accident when you’re running down the street, it doesn’t just stick to one point on your face, does it? Nope, it seems to wrap itself around your entire face, making you jump around like a demented person, swiping at yourself with your eyes shut making ‘ungh, ungh, ungh’ sounds… that’s the fascial connection to bone. The muscle becomes a tendon and that tendon is covered (not quite the best word) in fascia, which wraps around the bone. When you move a muscle, all that fascia yanks on the bone and it is for this reason that lean muscle mass is a great predictor of beautiful bone mass. If you’re weak and pathetic in the muscle area then chances are your bones aren’t gonna be doing so great either.
Change is not the best way, adapt is a better word, but for ease of reference, your bones are constantly changing themselves depending on what you’re doing with them. They’re also inherently lazy, which is slightly unfair given that it’s not their fault you’ve been sat on your arse for a looooong time, but unless you give them a fairly solid reason they’re not going to do very much. It’s hard work for the body to lay down new bone. When we’re younger your body throws down new bone just as quick as the old stuff is being taken away and dumped. That ratio changes as we age, so that the new bone isn’t really keeping up anymore. Changing and increasing your activity levels sends a signal to the body that new bone or stronger bone is required. Bones like to be surprised though, so if you’re already active and running, for instance, then the chances are that the bone has gotten used to that state of affairs and is a bit bored by your running activities. Adding some resistance training and other higher impact loads can help to poke a lazy bone into action.
Not all Bones Benefit Equally
Unfortunately that poking of a lazy bone only has the effect of waking that bone up. For instance, even if we say that running has an impact on bone health which it definitely does, it’s just how much that’s debateable, it’s only impacting the bones in the lower body. In other words, if you want better bone health in the upper body, for instance the wrists, then running and jumping up and down ain’t gonna do that for you. The wrist bones are going to laugh at your attempts to get them to strengthen up. So as much as we loooove running, you’re going to have to get your finger out and do some upper body training as well. In general, working out the entire body holistically is the best option… what’s good for that? Oh, that’s right, resistance training and Pilates (not the airy fairy stuff the good stuff on all the large equipment). Ooh, the things you can do with a Tower, a Wunda Chair and a kettlebell!
Did you hear me – sleep, rest, stop, desist, give yourself a break. Your body does all its repair and rejuvenation stuff while it’s asleep. It’s where the magic happens. If you’re not getting enough rest for whatever reason, then you’re wasting your time trying to build new bone through exercise and in fact are putting more stress on the body. You HAVE TO REST, you HAVE TO SLEEP.
This is the subject of another post, however new research shows that women who are thin and worried are more likely to lose bone mass than those who are relaxed and carrying some chub – NO! That is not an excuse to go out and eat cake! 😊 I wish it was.
The More you Do the Better it Gets
It’s never too late to start building better bone health. Bone is constantly changing to meet the demands you place on it. This process continues until the day you die. The body is constantly adapting 24 hours a day 7 days a week and it doesn’t even stop on Christmas day or bank holidays. Therefore thinking you’re too old is a weak excuse for not getting off your backside and following a good bone health programme – one that I might create for you, for instance.
The more you do, the higher the intensity, the more frequent those sessions are then the more strength you will impart to your bones, and your body in general!