How exercise can protect us against osteoporosis

bones, osteoporosis, menopause, symptoms, solutions

Keep on moving to boost your bone health.

“Your scan shows you have osteoporosis.”

bones, osteoporosis, menopause, symptoms, solutionsWords I didn’t expect to hear in my 50s, especially as I’ve run, jumped and danced my entire life. As a former PE teacher, I’ve always exercised. Netball, gymnastics, tennis, dance, you name it, I’ve done it. Undoubtedly this has benefited me in countless way and my bones are stronger than they would be otherwise.

But now I’m on a mission to raise awareness of osteoporosis, a condition which causes our bones to become weaker and more fragile. It’s especially important for women who go through early menopause, but we all need to think about our bones.

We lay down our bones in the first 30 years of our lives. We need to encourage our daughters and granddaughters to include enough calcium and vitamin D in their diets and to do enough of the right type of exercise to build strong bones to stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.

Osteoporosis and the menopause

Smoking, alcohol, fizzy drinks and long-term steroids can all weaken our bones. Oestrogen plays a vital role too, which is why osteoporosis affects so many post-menopausal women.

At 36 I had a hysterectomy. Although I kept my ovaries for a few more years, I had to take hormone treatment to put me into temporary menopause to prevent my endometriosis returning. It’s only now, in retrospect, that I realise that I went into menopause in my early 40s. At the time I didn’t associate my crippling insomnia and heart-stopping palpitations with menopause.

The endless nights of lying awake left me a feeling like my head was full of cotton wool. And one night I ended up in A&E as my heart was doing somersaults. They tried two ECG machines saying they must be faulty as my trace was concerning. I was admitted overnight and went through a full battery of tests before being given the all clear. The cardiologist just happened to mention that palpitations are not unusual for women going through ‘the change’.

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On a follow-up appointment with my GP I asked about HRT but was swiftly discouraged as the risk of getting breast cancer was too high based on research which has now been discredited. It didn’t take much to put me off as I’ve lost three of my sisters-in-law to breast cancer.

Protecting our bones

So I struggled on but oh how I wish I had known then what I know now. I missed a golden opportunity to replace the oestrogen that my body should have naturally had during my 40s and 50s. Although I have calcium in my diet, vitamin D supplements daily and regular impact and resistance exercises, I lost out on the oestrogen that would have further protected my bones.

Taking HRT is a very personal decision that each woman must make with the help of a doctor or menopause specialist who takes into account their history and symptoms. But for women who go through early menopause, whether spontaneously, through Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI) or following surgery, then HRT has a hugely protective role to play in boosting your bones.

I had to ask for a bone density scan as it wasn’t offered. To my delight, my GP has now put me on oestrogen gel and will re-scan my bones in two years.

My experience of menopause, along with my job as a specialist fitness instructor, led me to create MenoHealth to help women navigate their way through menopause, to access the right advice and enjoy the miraculous benefits of exercise.

I know that we can find a hundred excuses not to exercise; we’re too busy, too tired, too embarrassed. Yet if we were offered a drug that could reduce our risk of osteoporosis – along with diabetes, dementia, stroke, heart disease, depression and some cancers – we’d be queueing up to take it. MenoClasses include the right kind of exercise for our bones, muscles, hearts and minds.

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Led by specialist MenoLeaders, the exercises can be adapted with options for low or medium impact to help protect and strengthen your bones.

Find a MenoClass, or join us in our mission and train to become a MenoLeader so you can help others.

About Julie Robinson

I'm a fitness expert and the founder of Menohealth, offering specialist MenoClasses which combine support and exercise to help you take control of menopause. My vision is to ensure no woman goes through menopause alone by training an army of amazing MenoLeaders who can motivate those who have the lost the confidence or desire to exercise. I want to build a community of women supporting each other so they can enjoy better health and wellbeing through menopause and beyond.