Finding ways to care for yourself and your body as you age is essential if you are to remain as happy and healthy as you possibly can in your later years! The health of your bones should be a serious priority as you age, and many other aspects of your health can be negatively affected as you experience age-related thinning of the bones. Osteoporosis is a disease that is characterised by a weakening and thinning of the bones, making it much more likely that fractures and breaks will occur.
Studies into the effectiveness of yoga on bone health have yielded encouraging results, causing many health professionals to claim that yoga can help to prevent osteoporosis, or at least slow the advancement of this disease. This is exciting news for the massive amount of people struggling with this condition.
Who Suffers from Osteoporosis?
Official statistics suggest that approximately 200 million women around the world suffer from osteoporosis. Additionally, approximately one in three women aged over 50 have experienced an osteoporotic fracture. Women who smoke, regularly drink alcohol and those who are underweight are generally at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis. Furthermore, Caucasian and Asian women are known to be more likely to develop osteoporosis than any other race of people. Although men are also able to develop this disease, they are much less likely to than women because of how oestrogen levels drop dramatically for women as they approach menopause. In fact, estimates show that 80% of osteoporosis sufferers are female.
Protecting Your Health
Although it is not possible to protect against all the risk factors of this condition, there are things that you can do to protect yourself as much as possible. Your diet and the amount of time you commit to exercising are key. Following a plant-based diet and participating in yoga show the greatest promise when it comes to preventative measures.
Plant-based foods that are rich in calcium, such as kale and spinach, are especially useful for promoting bone health. Including foods like these in your diet, whilst also omitting packaged and processed foods, will be good for your bones as well as your health in general.
A study conducted by Dr Loren Fishman, of Manhattan Physical Medicine, is one of the leading studies investigating the link between yoga and osteoporosis to date. In a pilot study conducted over two years involving patients with a median age of 68, it was observed that those who practiced yoga throughout the duration of the study had gained bone mass, whereas those who did not practice yoga lost bone mass.
Yoga and Osteoporosis
So, why is yoga so great for bone health? First and foremost yoga is a weight-bearing exercise, meaning that you use the weight of your body against gravity in order to put a mild to moderate stress on your bones. When you partake in weight-bearing exercises new bone growth is encouraged. The amazing advantage that yoga has over other more conventional weight-bearing exercises, such as running, is that you will not be stressing your joints or damaging your cartilage.
Promoting new bone growth whilst also ensuring that you are causing no damage to your body is the best combination for optimum health and preserving your bone mass as you age. Secondly, yoga is a great low-impact exercise that gets you moving your body into positions that you might otherwise not engage in. This is an ideal way to keep all of your muscles, joints and bones active and in good shape.
Experts around the world are quick to praise the benefits of yoga when it comes to the health of your bones. Annie Kay, a dietician at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Massachusetts, is a firm believer in the strong connection between yoga, a plant-based diet and optimum bone mineral density. She claims that, “Most Americans eat twice as much protein as their bodies need, so there is a big acid push in the body that causes it to excrete too much calcium”. In response to this issue, she believes that an increased consumption of fruits and vegetables can help to correct this imbalance.
Opinion varies as to how much yoga is an adequate amount to contribute towards better bone health. However, it is certain that any amount of yoga is better than no yoga at all! If you are able to fit a short practice into your schedule each day, even if it is just a simple ten minute session, then you will still be doing your body and your bones some good. If you are aware that you are already have osteoporosis, or believe that you might be in the early stages of developing it, then it is advisable to find a professional yoga teacher and practice under their supervision as opposed to practicing at home on your own. Your safety should always be your prime concern when undertaking any new physical activity.
In addition to being a great way to preserve the health of your bones, yoga is also great for keeping stress levels down and boosting your flexibility, strength and stamina!