Sedentary lifestyle effects are many and your bones are no exception. Lack of physical activity and prolonged sedentary time can affect your bones and muscles in many ways.
A 2017 study reported that lifestyle factors can influence about 20 to 40 percent of adult peak bone mass and poor lifestyle choices can result in suboptimal bone deposition increasing the risk of osteoporosis and associated fractures.1
With the increasing lack of physical activity across all ages, this is a rising concern. So how does a sedentary lifestyle cause osteoporosis? What is the relation and what are the ways to prevent it?
How Does A Sedentary Lifestyle Cause Osteoporosis?
Reduced bone mass or decrease in bone density is a common aging process. But some factors like heredity, nutrition, physical activity, lifestyle choices, smoking, alcohol consumption, chronic ailments, and medications can affect it.2
With advancing age, several changes occur in the body, and increasing the risk of osteoporosis is one of them. Osteoporosis further increases the risk of bone fracture, falls, and injuries and can affect a person’s quality of life. Inadequate physical activity affects the joints and muscles which can increase the risk of joint problems. Loss of muscle mass can further lead to joint inflammation and raise the risk of bone disorders like osteoarthritis. Similarly reduced muscle mass and bone density can make the bone porous and raise the risk of conditions like osteoporosis. This, along with poor posture or improper walking techniques can increase the risk of fractures. Several studies have confirmed that a sedentary lifestyle can cause osteoporosis or increased sedentary time can increase the risk of osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is having low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue leading to increase bone fragility and a resulting increase in the risk of fractures. Hip fracture is the most common fracture associated with osteoporosis and is a leading cause of disability in the elderly.3 Hence, it is important to understand how a sedentary lifestyle can cause osteoporosis and how lack of physical inactivity can affect your bone and joint health.
Your bones are living tissues that work for you and are continuously broken down and replaced by newer cells and tissues. The bone tissues need certain nutrients for the growth of new tissues, once the old ones are broken down. Ideally, you obtain nutrients from the food you eat after it gets properly absorbed and metabolized. Thus, metabolism is an important part of this process that ensures a proper supply of nutrients to the bone. Factors like diet, calcium vitamin D levels, hormones like estrogen, immunity, certain medications, and other lifestyle choices can influence this metabolic process. These factors affect the absorption of nutrients like calcium and other minerals needed for bone development and can affect bone mineral density.4
When the deposition of bone minerals is inadequate the bone will not have enough minerals. If the rate at which the old bone tissue is lost is higher than the rate at which the newer bone tissue is replaced then the bone may remain deficient. This can gradually make the bone porous, which further leads to osteoporosis.
One of the factors affecting this process and causing osteoporosis is lifestyle behaviors and physical inactivity. A sedentary lifestyle negatively affects the mineral deposition in the bone and hence can contribute to reduced bone mineral density, resulting in osteoporosis.
As the role of a sedentary lifestyle in osteoporosis is clear, it is also important to know that physical activity can have a positive impact on bone mineral density. Sports activities, exercises, household work, or tasks that keep you physically active can stimulate bone growth and help preserve bone mass.
Effect of Sedentary Lifestyle on Muscle Mass
One of the ways how sedentary lifestyle affects bones and muscles is that with prolonged inactivity the muscles can get weak. Lack of physical activity leads to deconditioning of muscles, which causes loss of strength and flexibility of the muscles. This too puts the joints at greater risk of injuries and falls. Bone and muscle mass are related and can be affected during the process of aging, although bone loss due to the withdrawal of estrogens may be independent of muscular waste.
Along with bone mass, sedentary behaviors can also result in reduced muscle mass. This can reduce muscle strength and ultimately affect bone health. According to a study conducted in 2015, a sedentary lifestyle in older adults was associated with reduced muscle mass and an increased risk of sarcopenia. It reported that prolonged sitting time with increased television watching resulted in lower muscle mass, independent of physical activity. Thus, it is clear that means that apart from physical activity when older adults are engaged in prolonged sitting for long hours it has harmful effects on muscles and bones.5
Increased Risk Of Injuries Due to Sedentary Lifestyle
While a sedentary lifestyle can cause osteoporosis it can also have an impact on muscle mass and muscle strength, which can result in poor balance and coordination. Being overweight or advancing age can be an additional risk factor for bone and muscle disorders. Lack of bone mass, inadequate bone, and muscle strength, poor posture, and lack of flexibility can increase your risk of having injuries.
What to do?
While it is clear that a sedentary lifestyle causes osteoporosis and can prove harmful in many ways, the best way is to begin a gradual change. Osteoporosis that occurs due to a sedentary lifestyle needs to be managed by improving physical activity and reducing sedentary behaviors. Apart from regular exercise, weight training exercises can help in stimulating the bones to absorb calcium and the required nutrients that can improve bone mineral density.
Physical training at a low frequency of about 30 to 60 minutes, done twice or thrice a week can help in improving bone mass and reducing bone loss related to aging.6
A recent 2020 study was conducted to investigate the link between physical activity and the prevention of osteoporosis in older adults. The study concluded that there is a link between the two and that the effects of physical activity on the bone mineral density of the lumbar spine were more than that of the hip joint. It recommended that higher doses of multiple exercises and resistance exercises can be more effective in preventing osteoporosis.7
It is clear how a sedentary lifestyle can cause osteoporosis and also that physical activity can help improve bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Keeping this in mind you can plan an activity routine for yourself and your family. For any health concerns, seek advice from your healthcare provider and plan your exercise routine and avoid a sedentary lifestyle or prolonged sitting time.
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