It can be a real problem with some people, losing bone mass as they grow older. And it's not so good, as it makes people shrink when their bone density lessens. So, what can we do to prevent this, stop it to the best of our ability, and is it even possible to reverse it? And if so, how?
Teaching yoga, I have become acutely aware of some less than positive signs of ageing that could be prevented. One was that I have often seen is how curvature of the spine seemed to accompany shrinkage, getting shorter.....& this leads to a ton of problems, including back pain.
So the 1st thing to do is to learn how to stand up straight. Rather than training our bodies to know what it feels like to always slump, train it so that we know what it is like to have an upright spine. We get into a habit of slouching....for whatever reason, & over the years this leads to a wee hump....known as dowagers hump, in the "days of yore". So, try to put some time, everyday, into standing up straight. Push your feet into the floor, lift up through your crown, shoulders back & down, just a bit. Softly drop the tailbone (stops us poking out bottom out at an unsightly angle), lift our ribs a bit.
Keep practising this. Everyday. Until it becomes 2nd nature. At 1st it will feel strange, but after a while it will become "normal". You would be surprised to find out how much our mood improves with good posture. We also feel more confident.
But we also need to build strong bones so that our bones don't get smaller. There are actually several things that we can do. One of the easiest is to do exercise with lots of repetitions with light weights. Usually exercise with weights is done 2-3 times a week, & not on consecutive days. Using, say, 500 grams to 1kg in each hand is not a lot of weight, & is doable. You can also use cans of food. You do more repetitions of an exercise with light weights, ideally until the muscle getting worked gets tired. Latest research has found that this is extremely effective for bone health.
Yoga has been found to increase bone mineral density...whether its the stretch type of yoga (Iyengar) or the faster moving styles. So that's another option.
Walking & activities that involve a lot of movement like golf, dancing, tennis, hiking - these are all under the umbrella of weight bearing exercise, & it is the weight bearing exercise that builds bone & keeps it strong & healthy.
We can also use our own body weight, with exercise: yoga; planks; push-ups; tricep dips; lunges; squats - all are effective. If you do power yoga, you do heaps of these exercises in a class or session. This is quite difficult for most people to maintain on a daily basis, due to time....& also due to the effort required.
What we can do to fit in these movements is: do chair squats, fast. Hold onto a bench for stability & do as many as you can in a minute. Squat as though you are aiming your buttocks towards an imaginary chair behind you, using weight on your heels. Push back up to upright, squeezing your buttocks. Firms & shapes legs & buttocks. Surprisingly, this move has a direct effect on brain cognition. This means that we keep using our existing knowledge & faculties (rather than deterioration of our mental processes), plus....we learn better. An absolute bonus.
For the upper body, use a bench for as many push-ups as possible in one minute. Have your body in a straight line, abdominals tight, hands on bench under shoulders. Push down towards the bench, bending your elbows, &, if you can, keep them in close to the body to firm your triceps/back of the arms. Then straighten back up. Just do the best you can, & work towards doing them in style. Even if you can only do a few of these moves, it's a start.
You can also do crunches, lying on your back with knees bent & flat on the floor. Fingers interlaced behind your head, elbows wide. Do as many as you can in one minute, breathing out & pulling in, squeezing, your abdominal muscles as you lift up your head. Actually, holding a still position that works the abdominals is the most effective way to tone this area, such as in a plank, or an elbow plank. But, it is much harder.
3 minutes a day, for bone health. Priceless.
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