A few years ago, I experienced a rather sobering situation when one of my aerobics class participants found out she had advanced osteoporosis.

She was shocked and depressed because she had been working out for a number of years, and thought she had beat the odds. ‘What did I do wrong?’ was the question she asked herself and her doctor.

She had to change completely her exercise routine and lived under constant worry of bone fractures from her normal daily activities and from falling.


What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is sometimes called the ‘silent disease’.

People who have it may be completely unaware and asymptomatic until they experience a broken bone. Millions suffer from this debilitating condition on a global scale, which leads to high financial costs and impaired quality of life. The School of Public Health at Harvard defines Osteoporosis as “the weakening of bones caused by an imbalance between bone building and bone destruction” (Harvard).

Risk factors

There are a number of elements that influence the development of osteoporosis including:

– Genetics
– Alcohol Consumption; Smoking; Overall Nutrition
– LifestyleLack of Exercise
– Certain medical conditions; Menopause in women; Some Medications
– Sex hormone deficiencies
– Age; Sex; Body size/type; Race

osteoporosis prevention2

What can you do to prevent osteoporosis?

Not all risk factors can be changed such as age, but research suggests there are ways to reduce and maybe even prevent osteoporosis and to start as young as possible.


Although all forms of exercise are good for overall health, weight loss, and general well-being, in order to improve bone health and density, weight-bearing routines such as walking, hiking, or running and strength training are critical. Swimming is not a weight-bearing exercise since the water supports body weight.

Calcium and Magnesium:

These minerals are fundamental to bone health.  All dairy products, leafy green vegetables, beans, nuts, some sea foods and fish, and many fortified foods such as cereals are great sources – even for people who are lactose tolerant.

Vitamins D, A, and K:

These essential fat soluble vitamins help with bone growth. Limited sun exposure helps with Vitamin D, and a healthy diet that is rich in colorful fruits and vegetables provides adequate amounts of all three.

Alcohol, Coffee, and Soda:

Although the impact on bone health is inconclusive, limit daily intake.

Protein and Fat:

A diet of healthy protein and low saturated fat helps muscles and reduces the risk of other chronic conditions that may exacerbate osteoporosis.

The takeaway

Make sure you discuss all of your options with a health care provider, especially when considering taking vitamins and supplements that may interact with medications and pre-existing conditions or adding an exercise program if you have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis. Finally, learn how to reduce your risk of falling with balance training in order to prevent fractures.

Connect with Expert Leslie Olsen.


School of Public Health. Calcium and Milk: What’s Best for Your Bones and Health?

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