Keep your bones strong - and avoid osteoporosis - with these nutrition and exercise tips.
It doesn't seem quite fair. Not only do women reach, on average, a lower bone-density peak than men during their lifetime, but hormonal changes that occur during menopause speed bone loss, greatly increasing the risk of serious injuries such as hip fractures. The good news is that changes in diet and exercise can help reduce bone loss.
When it comes to diet, the key word is calcium, the most critical mineral for bone mass. The best sources are dairy products and green vegetables. You might also consider taking a calcium supplement, often combined with vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium and other minerals. Vitamin D is found in eggs, salmon, sardines, swordfish and some fish oils - and your body makes a certain amount of vitamin D in response to sunlight.
As far as exercise goes, remember that you don't need to be a triathlete to keep your bones in good shape. Incorporate weight-bearing exercise (which exerts force on your bones), such as walking, hiking and dancing into your daily routine, along with balance exercises to prevent falls and fractures. Bone, like muscle, grows in response to stress, so you must progressively and gently increase the challenge to your bones using ankle or wrist weights or exercise bands.
Here are some simple exercises designed specifically to build a balance of strength in your muscles and bones:
Hip kicks. Stand up and rest your hand on a counter or table for support. Then lift your leg straight out from your hip to the side as far as you can without over-straining. Bring your leg back down and extend out to the back; return and extend the same way to the front. Repeat these movements eight times with each leg.
Head raises. Lie facedown on the floor with a pillow under your pelvis. Anchor your feet under a bed or sofa. Place your arms and hands palm side up along the sides of your body. Now, slowly raise your head and shoulders upward. Slowly lower them. Repeat several times.
Wrist curls. Sit in a chair and support your forearm on your thigh. Let your wrist extend just a little past your knee and let your hand dangle. Place a 16 or 32 oz. can of food in your hand and bring your wrist up so your hand forms a straight line with your forearm. Lower your wrist and repeat. Work at this until you can do the movement about 10 times.
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