Elements to include in your exercise program
High Burst Activities – High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Researchers have found that gymnasts, Scottish dancers, and tennis players have strong bones. They believe this is because of the quick-paced high burst activity that these athletes are required to do for these activities. So for your exercise program, to build your bone strength, it is important to mix up your activity and to do short duration high burst activities. This can be skipping, dancing, briskly walking, pushing the pace on a hill on your walk, light jogging, and light plyometrics. High intensity interval training programs are a great way to do this and they also help to improve your strength and sport performance.
The process is to do short bursts of activity at a faster pace or with increased load (hill work) followed by a recovery phase in which you are working at a low intensity. These short bursts should be at a fairly high threshold pace, about 8-9/10 perceived exertion or in zone 4. Your breathing should be laboured and your arms and legs will feel heavy. When starting a HIIT program it is good to start with a 1:3 work to rest ratio. So for example you would do 15 seconds of work and 45 seconds of recovery. As you get fitter you can work to change these ratios to incorporate more work and less rest. Some other high burst activities that you can do at home include high knees, skipping, jump squats, jumping jacks, and mountain climbers.
To keep track of your time when doing intervals download this SIT: Simple Interval TImer .
Strength and Core
Resistive exercise with body weight, weights, or bands is an important component of your exercise program. Having strong muscles will help with posture, bone health, weight loss, joint protection, and optimizing efficiency in your everyday activities and sport.
Specifically, strengthening muscles in each body area will produce a force on the bones that will help build bone in that area. For example, to improve your spine you will do core exercises, arm strengthening will strengthen your arm bones, and leg exercises like squats and lunges will build your hip and leg bones. Strengthening has also been shown to reduce falls which will help you avoid fractures.
Balance can worsen with age or injury, it is important to practice balance exercises to prevent falls for older adults. Balance training is also a great way to work on your functional core stability which will be beneficial for performance of athletes in all levels of sport. There are specific muscles important for stability in standing and especially for standing on one leg. They are gluteus medius and minimus, calf muscles, abdominals, and quadriceps. In addition to training your muscles we need to challenge your vestibular system so that it can learn to accommodate for changes in position of your body and help you to find balance.
With osteoporosis you may find that your spine is starting to round in the mid to upper back and with this you may notice forward shoulders and a head forward position. To avoid this Dowager hump it is important to maintain full range of motion of your joints and have full length of your muscles. This will help your posture and help to prevent back and neck pain. A regular stretching program that incorporates deep breathing will also help to decrease stress and tension. The best time to do static stretching is after you have done exercise. It is important to hold your stretches for at least 30 seconds. If you want to stretch before your exercise sessions you should do a series of dynamic movements to incorporate full range of motion and mimic the functional movements you will be doing in your activity or exercise session.
Supplements for Osteoporosis
It is recommended that you have 1000 mg of Calcium and 1500 mg of Calcium if you have a diagnosis of osteopenia or osteoporosis. To get calcium from your food the best source is from dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese. Calcium is also added to soya milk, almond milk, oat milk, and to some orange juice. These sources tend to have about 250-300 mg of calcium. Osteoporosis Canada has a calcium calculator that can be accessed by clicking this link to find out other foods that are calcium rich. It is a great idea to check each day how much calcium you are getting from food and then take a supplement to make sure you get enough calcium.
It is recommended that you have 400-1000 IU of Vitamin D daily. If you are over 50 or have osteoporosis it is recommended you receive 800-2000 IU daily. The sun is a good source of vitamin D though because of our latitude and because of sunscreen we are not able to get enough from the sun. It is difficult to get enough vitamin D from your diet and Osteoporosis Canada recommends that all Canadian adults take a vitamin D supplement (specifically, vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol) year-round.
Nutrition: Fuel for your Exercise Program
When starting an exercise program it is important to be hydrated. Recent studies have shown that it is important to have a small amount of glucose and a small amount of sodium to allow your body to have optimal absorption. All your body fluids contain sodium and so the salt helps get the water you are intaking out of the stomach and into the blood. For workouts, Dr. Stacy Sims recommends 1/16th tsp of salt and 1 tsp of maple syrup in 500 mls water.
When you are incorporating lifting weights into your exercise program it is important to eat a balanced diet that includes carbohydrates, protein, and fats. As a rule of thumb, your daily nutrient intake should consist of about 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fats. There are many apps that can help you determine the macronutrients in the foods we eat. If you are unfamiliar with food macros I encourage you to download an app on your phone to keep track. I have used My Fitness Pal to track my macronutrients in the past.
Women perform best in a fueled state. Carbohydrates are necessary to give you the fuel for high intensity efforts and have been shown to improve performance for activities lasting longer than 45 minutes. They are the preferred fuel source for our brain. Healthy carbohydrates include fruit and berries, grains (quinoa, oats, rice), vegetables (sweet potatoes, beets), lentils, beans, and chickpeas.
Specifically for muscle recovery it is important to have enough protein in your diet. It is important to get 40 grams of protein within 30 – 45 minutes of exercise if you are postmenopausal. Protein sources include greek yogurt, protein powders, fish, tofu, poultry, pork, and beef. You can also get protein from lentils and beans.
It is also important to eat healthy fats. Healthy fats include vegetable oils, avocado, nuts, seeds (chia, hemp, pumpkin, sunflower, sesame), fish oils, omega 3 oils, and eggs.