6 Steps to Stop Muscle & Bone Loss
Aging is no joke! I had 3 scary health issues pop up in my late 40’s.
- Reduced muscle tone even with extra attention to muscle engagement.
- Early stage of bone density loss in my spine and hips.
- Chronic injuries that did not resolve with my usual techniques.
Here’s why I was confused by what was happening. I had a regular and substantial yoga practice. I ate well, slept well, and balanced my hormones. I had normal levels of stress, and I had good ways of managing it. So, when these three health issues surfaced, I was surprised!
I didn’t have much time or money to deal with them. I was also in a bit of denial! I needed a way to begin reversing this scary trend without it taking too much extra time, energy, and resources.
After some research and trial and error, I took these 6 STEPS to improve bone density, muscle strength, and heal my minor aches and injuries.
- I added resistance bands for lower body strengthening work.
- I added small weights for more upper-body toning and cardio.
- I added more dynamic exercises in yoga that increase challenge.
- I added more standing balance work to increase proprioception and postural integrity.
- I removed risky advanced yoga poses such as strong arm balances and deep backbends, which require super flexible hips, and put excessive force through the hips, shoulders, and spine. They also tend to move the spine far off neutral and into extreme lumbar hyper-extension or hyper-flexion.
- I added more vagus nerve-stimulating breath work.
After doing this for six months, the results were astounding. I became significantly stronger in my legs, hips, legs, core, and arms. My joints were noticeably more stable, especially my knees, low back, and shoulders, and the nagging aches and chronic injuries went away. I increased my breath capacity and used breathing to reduce my stress levels. I also noticed that I slept longer and more soundly. Something that surprised me was I started to enjoy balance poses. I noticed I could hold tree pose for several minutes because I felt so stable, strong, and balanced.
The positive results of taking these 6 STEPS showed up off the mat too. I could do much more in my daily life, including; surfing for two straight hours, carrying four large grocery bags up a flight of stairs, and hiking 12 miles in the rugged rainforest of Costa Rica.
Here are 3 important things I learned:
- Age-related health issues creep up on us even if we think we are taking good care of our bodies. Being alert and ready to change what needed to change saved my health.
- Regular yoga using only my body weight is not enough, I need more force, resistance, and weight to build lean muscle and bone tissue.
- Cumulative stress in my ligaments and joints from doing level 3 poses that move the body into hyper-mobility (defined as beyond what I need from a functional standpoint) is not beneficial to me now.
These 6 STEPS worked for me; that is all the proof I need. However, as a science geek, I wanted to know why it worked and keep refining my approach. So here are a few takeaways from the studies I read.
Resistance exercise (including bands and hand weights) promotes health. It prevents many chronic diseases because it improves skeletal muscle strength, endurance, power, and neuromuscular function and contributes to the prevention and management of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and weight gain.
Gaining muscle mass happens quicker when we add weight and resistance, and small weights can do the trick! For every three pounds of muscle, an average of 120 extra calories per day are burned, which is crucial for weight loss and control. The great news is that burning an extra 120 calories per day equals losing 10 pounds of fat annually.
Adding 20 minutes of dumbbells 3x a week improved metabolism, reduced body fat, and increased skeletal muscle mass. This means we can manage our midlife weight gain better and lower our risk of diabetes, heart disease, and more.
I am thrilled with the results of taking these 6 STEPS. By evolving my yoga practice and changing my lifestyle, I took charge of my body, and addressed my midlife health issues. I also appreciate how the results inspired me to transform my yoga classes and private sessions with weights, bands, balance work, and breathing. Finally, I am grateful to share these 6 steps with others who face similar challenges of staying healthy, strong, flexible, and pain-free in midlife.
Sienna Smith C-IAYT, E-RYT, CAPP