We've done the face, now it's time to anti-age our spine.
We spend huge amount of time, effort and money on looking good, we love trying out anti-ageing treatments, we scour the internet for the latest thing that will make us feel and look better (and younger) Looking good is important to most women and I'm no different. I'm a sucker for anything anti-ageing and have tried lots of different treatments and potions and lotions, but what we tend to forget because we can't see it, is that our bones are continuing to age too.
The shocking truth is that our faces may look five or ten years younger than our actual age but our bones are our true age, and again and again women tell me that they did not realise that they had to actively work on maintaining their bone density from before the menopause and beyond.
No one had told them.
No one had given them the tools to work with so they could spare themselves changes in their bones.
Not only does loss of bone density lead to increased risk of fractures but spinal fractures, often called wedge fractures or vertebral collapse can lead to changes in posture as the back becomes more kyphotic (bent over).
You might wonder why I'm singling women out and not concentrating on both men and women, but sadly, the ageing process is much crueller for women as they lose muscle strength and bone density much more dramatically than men.
So, let's talk about your spine and what to do to prevent spinal fractures.
Your spine is made up of 24 bones, called vertebrae that are stacked on top of one another. These bones connect to create a canal that protects the spinal cord.
As we loose bone density through Osteoporosis, the vertebrae weaken and become flatter. The weakened vertebrae are at a high risk for fracture. A vertebral compression fracture occurs when too much pressure is placed on a weakened vertebra and the front of it cracks and loses height. Vertebral compression fractures are often the result of a fall, but people with reduced bone density can suffer a fracture even when doing everyday things, such as reaching, twisting, coughing, and sneezing.
A vertebral compression fracture has a wedged-shaped appearance. The front of the vertebra has cracked and shortened while the back remains intact. This 'wedging' effect causes a bent over (kyphotic) posture or a Dowager's hump, which isn't easily reversible.
In my previous blogs I go into detail about the effects of estrogen and other hormones on bone density and the role of calcium and vitamin D in the prevention of bone loss and I would encourage you to read those to educate yourself about what you can do to help yourself through nutrition and possible medication such as HRT and Osteoporosis meds.
Exercises to improve bone density in the spine:
Weight bearing exercises are the number one type of exercises to build bone density such as walking, jogging, dancing, tennis, golf and aerobics, but these aren't enough to increase bone density in your spine. The spine needs more targeted exercises to build muscle strength and bone density. Pilates can be good for that, but it's very important to incorporate exercises that use resistance such as weights or resistance bands.
I want to show you a set of exercises I give to my female clients who perhaps haven't exercises for a long time or are nervous about joining a class (online or face to face)
These exercises are an introduction to starting to challenge your back muscles and therefore starting to build bone density. As you can see they mainly focus on the upper and mid back, but that is where wedge fractures/vertebral collapse is most likely to happen. They also help pull your shoulders back naturally so you wont have to buy any of those (useless in my opinion) 'posture corrector' contraptions that are flooding the internet at the moment.
The exercises on all fours should be done on a mat or on a bed if your knees are not so good at kneeling. Try to do all of these exercises, but if they're too much, start with one or two and gradually build up. Some aching after the first few times is normal but that will gradually reduce as you get stronger. If you have shoulder problems, introduce the exercises gradually, but you might find that your shoulder problem improves as you get stronger.
Repetitions and sets:
Exercises on all fours: 3 sets of 5 repetitions each side.
Wall push ups: 3 sets of 5-10 repetitions.
Extension exercise: 3 sets of 5 repetitions.
Rowing exercise: either tie a resistance band on to a door knob or something similar or use small weights: 3 sets of 5-10 repetitions.
Aim to do these exercises 3 times a week, as well as your other exercises such as walking, tennis etc.
If you have any issues with the exercises or would like more advice, please be in touch with me and I'll do my best to answer any questions.
These exercises will help your posture; you will stand straighter with your shoulders back and most of all, they will prevent a kyphotic or bent over posture which will in turn make you feel and look better...and a bit more youthful!