Osteoporosis affects millions of women. Here we speak with Kathy Kaehler, fitness trainer to the stars and spokeswoman for Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, and GlaxoSmithKline, about how women can build and protect strong bones.
Why and when should women start thinking about osteoporosis prevention?
Osteoporosis is the deterioration of the bone, and because it happens inside the body, you may not realize it’s happening to you. That’s why it’s so important to be informed.
This is something I believe begins very young. We have to understand that our bones are living. How we live our lives affects how our bones react and behave in our bodies. If you don’t consume appropriate amounts of calcium and vitamin D to build up that bone bank, change your habits. It’s really important to say, “Hey, I’m going to make lifestyle changes; I’m going to get more sunshine, more calcium, more vitamin D and more exercise that is weight-bearing.”
When you get into your late 40s and 50s, get a bone scan. Fortunately there are measures that can be taken – through medication and diet – to reverse bone loss.
Having Sally Field as the face of Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, and GlaxoSmithKline helps people realize that it’s not a “grandma disease.” I have clients in their late 30s and 40s who are showing the early stages of osteoporosis.
What are osteoporosis risk factors?
Family history and genealogy play a big part. Also, look at your calcium intake and where you live. If you live in the north and don’t get much sun in the winter months, you may not be getting enough vitamin D. Smoking and too much caffeine can also be risk factors. And if you do not do any type of weight-bearing exercise that gives you resistance or pressure on your bones – like jogging, walking and dancing – that’s a risk factor.
What types of exercise are best for maintaining strong bones?
It’s important to do a total body workout with weight-bearing activity. Look at your whole structure; your body has a lot of bones. For your upper body, do exercises that target the chest, the back, the arms and your core. For your lower body, you can do squats, leg extensions and leg curls. You need to engage all your muscles in weight-bearing exercises, in addition to doing cardio.
This isn’t actually as difficult as it may sound. You can check out the Bone Healthy Workout on bonehealth.com, a program I put together where you use your own body weight to help you stay strong and have good balance.
Do you have any exercise tips for women who are time-constrained?
Time is one of the most common issues people have with exercise. Exercise is cumulative. If you do a few sessions of 5 minutes throughout the day, that can give you the results you’re looking for. And with the bone health workout, you can pick and choose the exercises you want to do.
When I wake up in the morning, I do some pushups, lunges and squats. It wakes me up and warms me up. I’m more inclined to fit that short bout of exercise in throughout my day than if I were shooting for a half hour.
Jane Brody wrote a recent The New York Times article on low-acid diets and bone health. Do you subscribe to the philosophy that too much protein and not enough fruits and vegetables can weaken bones? In what other ways can women use diet to prevent osteoporosis?
When it comes to health, I believe that you should take the new theories you hear about with a grain of salt, but with your ears open, because new theories become fact all the time. The whole acid thing does make a tremendous amount of sense. If you look at our diets today, we’re not eating the “real food.”
Today, there’s so much processing done to our food. And the foods that you get in restaurants and fast food chains are high in fat and sodium. We have to look at a way to incorporate far more fruits and vegetables into our diets, as Jane Brody says. We’re so far off the Mediterranean diet. I’m all for non-hormone chicken and grass-fed beef – but not at every meal, every day. We should be eating fresh, real food.
I’m a big proponent of dairy, too.
Kathy Kaehler is an author and celebrity trainer. For thirteen years, Kathy appeared on The Today Show as the fitness correspondent. She has been a contributing writer to Elle, Self and Women’s Sports and Fitness and her workout and training tips have appeared in In Style, Us Weekly, Shape, Fitness and Family Circle, among many others. Kathy is a regular contributor to MSNBC.com and writes a bi-weekly column for the Los Angeles Daily News. She is the author of Fit and Sexy for Life.