The Health and Wellbeing column with Mel Spencer

If I squashed you, you would push back, and that's exactly what bones do when put under a form of resistance.
If I squashed you, you would push back, and that's exactly what bones do when put under a form of resistance.

October 20 was Osteoporosis Awareness Day and it really got me thinking about how now that I’m into my 40s – and indeed in my 30s – I view health and fitness as so much more than just staying skinny – which is a far cry from me in my 20s.

In my last article we talked about the mental health benefits of exercise, but there are many more, including reducing the risk of osteoporosis.

So what is it and who does it affect?

Osteoporosis is a disease which affects the density and quality of bone making it brittle and more susceptible to fracturing. So what is the science behind this?

Up until about the age of 30, we produce more bone than we lose, after which time the tables turn and the opposite starts to happen, meaning that as we grow older our bones become weaker – this can then lead to osteoporosis.

Women are actually far more likely to be affected than men (1 in every 2 women over the age of 50), largely due to the part that oestrogen plays in bone production and the decline in this hormone following the menopause.

Throughout our life, our bones are constantly working to maintain their structure, the cells responsible for this are called osteoblasts and osteoclasts.

These cells work together, firstly the osteoclasts break down old bone and the osteoblasts lay down new bone to replace it.

A lack of oestrogen following menopause affects signalling hormones that regulate this bone growth and osteoclasts become far more active than the re-building osteoblasts, resulting in an accelerated weakening of the bone – on top of that which naturally occurs with age, thus leading to bone weakening.

This is where resistance training comes in.

If I squashed you, you would push back, and that’s exactly what bones do when put under a form of resistance. They effectively ‘push back’, minimising bone loss and protecting bone tissue.

This is caused by an increased production of osteoblasts due to forces exerted on the bone. Weight training is by far the best medicine when it comes to strengthening our bones.

Nutrition is also very important. If you don’t fuel yourself adequately whether exercising or not, your body will start to take what it needs from elsewhere; namely muscle and bone mass and this again causes a weakening of the bones.

If you would like any further advice or have any questions, contact me at www.melspencerpt.co.uk.