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The rise of osteoporosis during the pandemic, and how you can prevent it

Published on:2 June 2021, 10:00am IST
Osteoporosis is on the rise, especially during the pandemic. Is there a reason for this and can we minimise the damage? Well, all your questions will be answered in this piece. Read on to know more.
Geetika Sachdev
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Movement is necessary for good bone health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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We’ve often heard of the adage ‘health is wealth’, but it has never seemed as significant as it is today. A global health crisis like covid-19 has not just changed our perception towards physical and mental health, it has also made us more action-oriented. No wonder, we are trying as much as we can to prevent any other health issues that come our way. Yes ladies, due to restricted mobility in the past one year, there’s a high possibility of our bodies turning into a breeding ground for a range of diseases. Spending most of our waking hours in front of a screen is making our lives oh-so-sedentary, that’s why we must shake ourselves up before it’s too late! 

This is where we also want to speak about the rise of osteoporosis during the pandemic. As most of us know, this bone-related disease is associated with brittle bones and joints. But why has it become so common during the pandemic? Dr Arvind Yadav, Head Physio — Bengaluru Bulls, Asian Games 2014-2018, and Rio Olympics 2016, explains. 

“Due to lack of movement, the joints in the body become weak. This is especially prevalent among people living in metropolitan cities, where minimal or no exposure to sunlight has exacerbated the issue. With no production of vitamin D in the body, degeneration of bones takes place, which makes them more prone to osteoporosis. Also known as ‘porous bone’, osteoporosis is the loss of tissue from the bones, which causes them to be fragile. This leads them to break easily, due to deficiency of calcium and vitamin D.

Does it affect only the older generation?

The answer is a big NO. Osteoporosis is a degenerative bone condition in which the body starts to break down your bones faster than it is able to replace it. Although we believe that this affects the older generation, this isn’t true. And there are several cases that we’ve seen during the pandemic. 

“Because of the fear of covid-19, people from all age groups have largely spent time indoors, and have been leading a sedentary life. Due to lack of regular physical activity and improper diet, people are more prone to diseases. If they do not take steps now, they are going to suffer from long-term implications in the long run. Unfortunately, osteoporosis can’t be diagnosed early, as it doesn’t show any symptoms in the initial stage,” adds Dr Yadav. 

But is it possible to minimise the damage?

Dr Yadav reassures us that we can. He believes that although there have been several reports that focus on eating right and nourishing the body with the right amount of calcium, vitamins and other nutrients, some other things must also be kept in mind. 

Eat well to prevent low bone density. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

I want to emphasise on the importance of a safe exercise regimen and a healthy lifestyle. Exercise can help reduce the pain, swelling, stiffness of the joints, as well as improve joint function. It isn’t necessary that they need to step outside at all. Exercises can be performed indoors too!,” he adds. 

Here are some tips that he suggests:

1. Hydration is key

The bone marrow is responsible for production of red blood cells, and it is these cells that carry oxygen. Water brings calcium and other nutrients into the bones, so eating a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D will not work without water. Water also helps to get the body get rid of toxins that can otherwise cause inflammation and breakdown in the bone mass,” explains Dr Yadav.

2. Breathing exercises

The pandemic has made us realise the importance of breathing. For the uninitiated, breathing right helps to reduce the occurrence of osteoporosis. Here’s why.

“Breathing causes expansion and contraction of chest muscles, making them stronger: Deep breathing and holding your breath causes isometric contraction that helps to strengthen the muscles. .This leads to less pressure and workload on your spine as well as ribs,” he explains.

3. Increased movement

Although stepping out is not the right decision, one can perform some basic exercises indoors. 

“Walk for 40-45 min from corner to corner. Try and strengthen hip and knee muscles by weight bearing, and not through weight-bearing exercises. One can also try climbing the stairs, whenever possible. Make sure you increase the intensity of your workout slowly and steadily. You can also add resistance band exercises, if you like,” concludes Dr Yadav. 

Geetika Sachdev Geetika Sachdev

An independent writer and journalist, Geetika loves sharp and fresh humour, just like her coffee! If not writing, you'll find her cafe-hopping and raiding the best book stores in town.