By Laurel-Lea Shannon
Osteoporosis will affect one in three women during their lifetime. We’re facing “an osteoporosis epidemic,” says Dr. Jean-Philippe Bonjour of the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF). What’s responsible? Mainly, changes in diet and a sedentary lifestyle.
In osteoporosis, bone tissue deteriorates causing low bone density. As the bones become increasingly porous and fragile they break more easily. Difficult to detect, osteoporosis can sneak up on you. Often there are no symptoms until the first fracture.
If you’re a keen cyclist you may think you’re protected from this debilitating, and sometimes fatal, disease. But when it comes to bone health, not all exercise is equally beneficial. The IOF has a list of weight bearing activities that promote bone health. Unfortunately, cycling isn’t on it.
Research shows that recreational cyclists who don’t cross-train could be placing themselves at risk for this bone-thinning disease. Cycling is a great aerobic workout but it’s not weight bearing exercise. Unlike hiking, cross-country skiing or running, you don’t have to support your own weight to ride a bike. Add to this to the minerals you lose through sweating while you cycle, and you could be heading for osteoporosis and the possibility of bone fractures from low-speed falls.
After the age of 30 bone density declines, but if you’re active and healthy, the calcium you need to rebuild bone density is replaced regularly. As you approach menopause your body replaces less and less calcium. But you can slow bone loss by eating a healthy diet that includes dairy, fish, fresh fruits and vegetables; and by participating in activities that include impact, gravity forces and vibration ─ like hiking, running, dancing, and skipping rope.
The good news about cycling is it keeps your cardiovascular system humming, builds leg and arm muscles, helps you maintain a healthy weight, and it’s easy on the joints. Here are some preventive measures to take care of your bones:
Throw in some cross-training: Walking, hiking, dancing, gardening, tai chi, skipping rope and running are good weight-bearing activities. Add them to your exercise routine a couple of times a week.
Do hatha yoga or pilates: Poses like the cobra promote a flexible and healthy spine.
Do weight training: This is also good for bone health. Make sure you include routines to build both lower and upper body strength.
Get the daily recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D: They provide added protection. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends 1,000–1,200 milligrams of calcium a day. A blood test will determine if you’re low on Vitamin D and require supplements.
Don’t smoke: Smokers lose bone density twice as fast as non-smokers.
Can the soft drinks: Carbonated drinks are high in phosphorous. This blocks calcium absorption.
Eat a healthy diet: Eat a natural, balanced diet that includes five to seven servings of vegetables and four or five servings of fresh fruit a day. Vegetables like broccoli and spinach are good sources of calcium. Fish, that contains bones like canned salmon and sardines, are another good source.
Drink in moderation: Alcohol reduces calcium absorption. If you drink, don’t have more than one a day.