Using Nutrition and Exercise to Combat Osteoporosis

By Sarah Schlichter

Women’s health is a very important topic. As we know, many health related conditions stem back to the foods we put in our body. Exercise also has a significant impact on our health. As a matter of fact, many conditions, like hypertension, heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes, can be prevented or controlled by both diet and exercise. For women, especially, exercise and movement is important for strengthening bones and preventing osteoporosis.

Women are at a higher risk of osteoporosis than men because women typically have smaller, thinner bones. About 80% of the estimated 10 million Americans with osteoporosis are women. Estrogen, a hormone that is protective of bone, decreases as women age. Hence, the risk of osteoporosis increases with age.

Including sources of calcium and Vitamin D in our diets can provide protection against bone fractures and risk, as both work to strengthen bone and enable bone remodeling. While the best source of Vitamin D is the sun, the fall and winter months bring a challenge because the sun’s rays may not be as strong, depending on where you live. Make sure to include rich sources of Vitamin D in your diet, including cod liver oil, fatty fish, fortified milk and orange juice, yogurt, eggs (with yolk) and fortified cereals. Vitamin D is essential for helping our bodies absorb calcium. While dairy sources boast the most calcium, fear not if you follow a dairy-free or vegan lifestyle. Other great sources of calcium include canned fish with bones, leafy greens, soy, legumes and almonds.

Adding more movement and exercise into your lifestyle will also help decrease your risk for osteoporosis. While running, hiking, strength training and high impact aerobics can be great for building muscle and keeping the heart rate up, many low-impact weight-bearing exercises offer many benefits as well. Exercises such as riding a bike, pilates, yoga, using elastic exercise bands and even walking, can promote muscle and bone strengthening.

For those with busy schedules, here are some tips to include more movement into your day without planned exercise:

  • Wear an activity band. This helps with accountability.
  • Park further from the office or grocery store, take the stairs over the elevator, or walk around the block before leaving your house.
  • If you’re talking on the phone, go for a walk, or do some light calf raises or lunges.
  • Do 20 jumping jacks when you wake up.
  • Stand up every 30-40 minutes. Sitting too long can be detrimental. Stand up, refill your water, and take a brisk walk around the building or in the sunshine.
  • Do pushups, planks, tricep dips or lunges during commercial breaks.
  • Add in some air squats when you’re making dinner.
  • Find social events that encourage activity! Rather than grabbing coffee with a friend, go for a walk or head to a yoga class.

By Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RDN, LDN

Sarah is a freelance writer, Registered Dietitian and the healthy living blogger behind Bucket List Tummy ( For more tips on nutrition, meal planning, weight loss and exercise, check out her blog or email her at [email protected].

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