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Dem healthy bones!

February 12, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) issued their 2010 position statement on the management of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.

The statement discusses (among other things, like diet and supplementation) the importance of weight-bearing and strength-training exercise. These activities result in stress to the bone, which in turn results in increased bone mass and, therefore, stronger bones.

I quote: “Extreme exercise is not necessary, however, to effect a bone benefit.” So please don’t think “harder and longer and MORE is better!” Not at all!


NAMS reports that a meta-analysis (a review of a large number of studies on the subject) found that all is not gloomy. Women can INCREASE their BMD [bone mineral density] after menopause. This can lower your risk for incurring debilitating fractures in the years ahead. 

Your BMD, by the way, is determined by your peak bone mass (which you reached around age 30) MINUS bone loss.

Two concerns, according to the statement:

  • Young women who don’t achieve adequate peak bone mass start off at a disadvantage.
  • Many women, by age 80, have lost about 30% of their peak bone mass.


Weight-bearing exercise: Walking is a weight-bearing activity. The paper adds: “Jogging or running provides impact-loading benefits to the skeleton.” (Try this: On the treadmill, alternate brief sprints with longer recovery phases where you walk and let your heart rate come down. This is one type of interval training, which also speeds fat loss.)

Strength-training: To strengthen skeletal areas most often involved in osteoporotic fractures, NAMS suggests you target: 

  • the large extensor muscles of the back
  • the hip flexors and extensors
  • muscles of the thigh, upper arm, and forearm

That’s a lot of territory! I’ll write more in subsequent posts about exercises you can perform to target these areas. For now, think about adding some of these to your workout if you don’t already do them:

  • squats, leg press, lunges (thighs)
  • biceps curls and hammer curls (front of the upper arm and forearms)
  • triceps pushdowns (back of the upper arm)
  • machine back extension (back extensors)
  • flat bench or incline bench leg lifts, OR hanging knee or leg raises (hip flexors)
  • leg curls, Romanian deadlifts, prone (lying face down) leg lifts (hip extensors)


It’s important you remain as physically active as possible. However, things change. Certain exercises can be dangerous and increase your risk for fractures. NAMS instructs you to AVOID:

  • High-impact aerobics
  • Activities in which there’s a higher risk of falling
  • Exercise involving repeated or resisted trunk flexion, such as sit-ups or toe touches

Sound advice: If you work with a personal trainer, be sure to tell him/her about your condition. Same goes if you’re taking aerobics classes. TELL the instructor you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis. If he/she can’t advise you of safer alternatives to potentially risky movements, skip that class!

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