T Nation


My girlfriends mother just found out she has full-blown osteoporosis. For some background, she’s 58, a smoker - she recently cut back from over a pack a day to two cigarettes per day… working her way to quitting all together (which is an inevitablility now because of the diagnosis) - and she weighs about 100 pounds soaking wet.

She knows she has to eat more and she’ll be starting her medication soon. She is not into physical fitness at all and my girlfriend and I want to get her more active and build some muscle… although we don’t want to scare her off with information overload. Does anyone here have any suggestions of not only exercises, but also what to eat and any supplements that would help with bone density/muscle building. She likes to go for walks, so I was thinking of getting her one of those weighted vests, but I know nothing about them and she’s not very strong so it would have to be one where you could vary the amount of weight. Any thoughs would really be appreciated. Thanks!


Good luck

First off, try to get her into some sort of strength training. A circuit routine with machines is fine to start. Remember, she is not a body builder, and a good full body circuit could do a world of good. Studies have shown that lifting heavy weight can actually build up the bones and reverse osteoporosis. Also remember heavy is relative. You may pump 30 lb dumbells, while 5 pounders are heavy for her. The point is to select a weight where she can just get out 10 or so reps with good form. The machines will help force her form. A decent starter circuit routien can take as little as 30 minutes - she should do it 2, maybe 3 times a week. Walking is good too, but dont worry about the weight vest (at least I dont think it would help much).

Supplement wise, calcium is key. There are some special brands like “Citrical” that are supposed to be more easily absorbed by the body, this may all be hype but Im not sure.

So in summary, get her on calcium, and get her on weight machines. As little as an hour a week of lifting, with some walking thrown in for good measure, will do her a world of difference.

Good luck!

I agree with the last post, that strength training has proven to increase bone density, and that calcium supplementation is key. Additionally I would suggest both vitamin C and D, these both assist with the absrption of calcium, and in turn increase plasma calcium levels, which should slow the rate of bone resorption(breakdown). Remember also, that this is probably pretty scary for her, and dhe really needs emotional support. I would suggest that you and your girlfriend could go and workout with her on the circuit training suggested before. This may not be very beneficial to you in terms of building muscle mass, but it can vastly improve her confidence in going to a “scary” gym with a bunch of overgrown men!!

Avoid resisted forward trunk flexion at all costs!

Besides the advice that Jim H. has given, if she likes the water, you might suggest she enroll in an aquafit class. The benefits there are huge. First off, there’s the cardio option–she will be moving. It is a gentle workout that people can do at their own pace. They can work really, really hard, or they can just float around–they choose. Second, water offers fabulous resistance. So, for someone who has not done any weight training at all it will begin to condition her muscles. There are a lot of classes at various gyms and community centres offered for older women that involve light weight training. You might look into some of these. First, the camaraderie will be great for her. Second, unless you plan to be at the gym with her and show her and guide her through the use of all the machines, she probably won’t stick to it. A regular class, held twice a week, or even three times, may work better for her. There she will have an instructor to teach her good form and take her through the exercises. To start, she needs nothing more than 5 lb. dumbbells. I have taught this type of class before and I know that women that age do not want heavy weights because (foolishly!) they think they will look like Arnold in a few weeks. Hahahahaha!Also, they do not have the stamina to go for a long time and tire very quickly. They don’t like to be sore either, and will complain bitterly if they are. Anyways, start her slow and keep her going. Weight training is the best thing for the osteo. Eventually she will add more weight and the machines will be more intriguing to her.

Where do i find the step by step total workout for someone that suffers from osteoporsis that wants to build muscle and be toned without looking like a body builder.

Patt from atlanta

SHE’S 58 years old???She ain’t NEVER going to look like a body builder. Don’t worry about that. Forget the water workout, not enough stress on the bones because of bouyancy. She also has to get at 20-30 minutes a day of sunshine so her body can produce the Vitamin D and that will enable her to utilize the calcium.

Good luck.


[quote]Eric Cressey wrote:
Avoid resisted forward trunk flexion at all costs![/quote]

Ummm… what? Is that an ab machine? Would you like to try to type in English sometimes? You know, it’s that language most of us understand?

It’s like that time you razzed Davies about ‘excessive foot pronation’. Yeah we know what you’re talking about but really… you just sound like a wanker.

I would say for someone of her age and background, lifting is probably going to be a tall order. I would start with trying to get her to have 2 or 3 full glasses of milk everyday and to start some walking.

Weight bearing activities of course, are the best thing but you have to be very careful with the load as her bones are already brittle.

Good luck with it and remember, more calcium and baby steps after that.

I would encourage her to see a physical therapist…and develop a program with him/her…

LOL, you guys do realize you are helping a guy who posted this 3 years ago. I mean damn this 58yr old may no longer even be alive.

Just a heads up. Nice of you to help however.


Haahahahahaaa! I never think to look at the dates! Classic!

But think about it. If she’s been drinking her milk and hitting the weights since then, this could be one damn buff looking 61yr old we’re talking about here.