After last night’s class someone asked me about whether yoga is any good for building bone density, and I got all warm and fuzzy inside because the answer is a resounding YES!
We all know that yoga is great for things like reducing stress, but not many people know that it can also be an effective treatment for osteoporosis, either on its own or supplemented by other treatments. Research has shown that yoga can prevent or slow — and in some cases even reverse — the process of bone loss.
It’s well-known that physical activity, weight-bearing and strenuous exercise, will help keep osteoporosis and its precursor, osteopenia, at bay. But much strenuous weight-bearing exercise has serious disadvantages, which must not be underestimated when thinking about your health, while Yoga has unique and wonderful advantages.
Another thing that a lot of people don’t know if that it’s increasingly suggested that high impact aerobic activity can actually lead directly to osteoarthritis. That foot-pounding, hips flexing, knee impacting, spine-jarring activity takes men and women trying to prevent or reduce bone loss out of the frying pan and puts them in the fire of developing painful, crippling hard-to-control osteoarthritis. Older people are confronted by a dilemma: Too much impact exercise and you will help your bones while hurting your joints. Don’t exercise and your osteoporosis will advance. It’s both ends of the bone against the middle.
While yoga is no panacea (I’m not sure one exists – if you know of one, please tell me!), it does provide weight-bearing exercise with none of the dangers that lead to osteoarthritis. Yoga pits one muscle group against another to generate forces far greater than gravity. Yoga is isometric exercise. It is also weight bearing. Both of these types of activity have been proven to improve bone strength. Unlike most forms of “weight-bearing” activity, yoga does not damage cartilage or lead to osteoarthritis, another peril of ageing. Yoga stretches the muscles, increasing the range of motion that osteoarthritis otherwise inexorably narrows. By improving range of motion, yoga counters the chief and sometimes terrible impairment that comes with osteoarthritis.
FYI: Osteoporosis — a disease characterized by weak, thinning bones that can lead to fractures — affects an estimated 200 million women worldwide, and one in three women over 50 experience osteoporotic fractures. Classic risk factors for osteoporosis include being female, age, low body weight and smoking.
Credits to Carolyn Gregoire of The Huffington Post