Osteoporosis…Boning Up on Weight Loss!

young and attractive people doing fitness exercises


Osteoporosis is a disease that increases the risk of bone fractures.  This is because the density of the bone mineral calcium is reduced.  The accepted medical definition of osteoporosis categorizes someone as having osteoporosis when his or her bone mineral density is 2.5 or more standard deviations below the mean peak bone mass that is exhibited by healthy, young adults.  This is a disease that affects men and women, and currently it is estimated that 40 million people either have osteoporosis or have a high risk of developing it.1

Adjusting Your Diet Can Help to Reduce the Risks of Osteoporosis

People who do not have osteoporosis yet can take steps to keep from getting this disease by adjusting their diets.  People can take steps to improve their diets by making sure that they are getting ample supplies of calcium and vitamin D.  Calcium helps to strengthen and solidify your bones, while vitamin D enables your bones to be able to absorb calcium much more easily.

The recommended daily amounts of calcium are as follows:2

  • Children 1-3 years of age – 700 mg
  • Children 4-8 years of age – 1,000 mg
  • Teenagers – 1,300 mg
  • Men up to 70-years old/Women up to 51-years old – 1,000 mg
  • Men 70+/Women 51+ – 1,200 mg

The National Academy of Sciences also recommends the following daily amounts of vitamin D:

  • People aged 1-70 – 600 International Units (IU)
  • People 70+ – 800 IU

Some experts are now suggesting that people should be getting between 800 to 1,200 IU of vitamin D each day because lower amounts of vitamin D can impact the health of your bones. The older that you are, the more likely you are to sustain a fracture when falling. Taking more vitamin D contributes to stronger bones which can improve stability in joints so you are less likely to fall. It also gives you a better chance of avoiding a fracture if you do fall.

You can add more vitamin D and calcium to your diet via the foods you eat and the supplements you take.  Whenever possible, however, it is advised that you get as much of your vitamin D and calcium from the foods you eat and the beverages you drink.  Some good sources of vitamin D and calcium include cheese, yogurt, milk, and other dairy products.  They also provide other essential nutrients for your bones to remain strong, including protein and phosphorus.  If you are not fond of dairy products or cannot tolerate them, you can also receive ample sources of calcium in the following foods and drinks:

  • Orange juice
  • Cereal
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Oysters
  • Blue crab
  • Clams
  • Shrimp
  • Ocean perch

Foods that include vitamin D are not as plentiful, but the following options are good choices:

  • Orange juice
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Tuna fish
  • Salmon
  • Sardines

Of course, supplement pills is better than not getting enough of vitamin D and calcium in your diet, so make sure to obtain enough vitamin D and calcium in your diet via food, supplements, or both. Vitamin D supplements comes in several varieties, but vitamin D3 is the most beneficial form.

How Exercise Can Help Reduce the Risks of Osteoporosis

Medical experts agree on the fact that osteoporosis patients benefit greatly from exercise.  This might seem counterintuitive to some, since osteoporosis makes bones weaker, and exercise forces you to vigorously use your joints and bones. The reason why exercise is seen as important in the fight against developing osteoporosis is because exercise helps to maintain the bone mass you still have.  Not only does exercise do wonders for your muscles and endurance, but also for the thickness and size of your bones.  In addition, your balance improves, which can help you to avoid falls that often lead to fractures, especially in older people.

There are three types of exercise that can greatly benefit osteoporosis patients: weight-bearing, resistance, and flexibility.

Weight-bearing exercises involve standing on your feet and using your legs while bearing the weight of your body as you work your muscles and bones. Such exercises include dancing, stair climbing, running, and walking.

Resistance exercises involve exercises that have you working against the weight of another object.  These types of exercise helps to strengthen your muscles and build your bones.  This can greatly help to reduce your risk of fractures when you fall.  Water exercises, exercises that use resistance tubing, and weight machines or free weights are great examples of resistance exercises.

Flexibility exercises can help to improve the flexibility of your joints, which can lessen your chances of injury.  Some good flexibility exercises include T’ai chi, yoga, and regular stretches.

Changes to Diet and Exercise can Help to Prevent or Manage Osteoporosis

If you are on a weight loss program, you will want to lose weight without losing bone mass. It’s important that you exercise regularly in addition to restricting your calories. Even if you are a senior citizen, there are plenty of ways to exercise to maintain healthy bones that don’t require working out in a gym. For example, you can walk in safe places with friends or go dancing with your husband at the community center or do chores outside like gardening. You can also choose activities that require plenty of walking like a visit to the zoo.3

Osteoporosis can strike any person at any age, though it often strikes older adults, and especially women.  To avoid osteoporosis as long as possible, and to manage it if you do contract it, you should boost your intakes of vitamin D and calcium, as well as perform exercises that strengthen your muscles and maintain your bone mass, including flexibility, resistance, and weight-bearing exercises.  By taking these steps, you can minimize or eliminate your risk of contracting osteoporosis in the future. In addition, there are several medications that your doctor can presrcibe that will help treat osteoporosis and supplement your efforts of diet and exercise.


1 Osteoporosis Overview. (2011, January). Retrieved from NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Cneter: www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Osteoporosis/overview.asp

2 Houtkooper, L., & Farrell, V. A. (2011, January). Calcium Supplement Guidelines. Arizona Cooperative Extension .

3 Five Ways Older Adults Can Be More Physically Active. (2008, November). Retrieved from National Diabetes Education Program: ndep.nih.gov/media/five-ways-older-adults-active.pdf?redirect=true


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