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How To Improve Bone Health

Written by: Colleen Bridges, M. Ed., NSCA-CPT, Parkinson’s disease fitness specialist,

Renee Rouleau- PhD student, Jacobs School of Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo;

Betsy Lerner, MA English and African American Lit, Parkinson’s Disease Specialist and Rock Steady Boxing Certified

Megan Kelly, PT, DPT, LSVT Big and Parkinson’s Wellness Recovery Certified

Cindy Nyquist, LPTA, ATC, Rock Steady Boxing Certified

Action = Reaction! - Especially when it comes to bone health. When you move, the result is strong muscles AND strong bones!

Last week we discussed what affects bone health... This week Bridges For Parkinson’s shares with you HOW to improve your bone health! Here is the good news! It is easier to improve your bone health than you might think!


(particularly weight bearing exercises)

Here are some of the exercises Bridges for Parkinson’s does that positively impact bone health.

  • Squats (or squat jumps), Lunges, jogging/marching, shuffling forward/back, jumping jacks, walking, sit-to-stands. These specific types of exercises create forces that move through your bones and support the bone remodeling process which improves your bone density! Bridges For Parkinson’s regularly includes these exercises in our program in order to address Parkinson’s symptoms AND improve bone health!

  • Strength Exercises: Any exercise that involves weights, tubes, machines, bands, exercise bands etc. In addition, planks, side planks, bridges, push-ups etc. - strengthen muscles which, in turn, improves bone health.

Now, let’s take a look at the research conducted by Dr. Larry Tucker Ph. D of Brigham Young University. In 2014, Dr. Tucker decided to explore the claim that 20 jumps a day can increase bone density. The study involved 60 premenopausal women between the ages of 25-50. The women were asked to jump, without wearing shoes, 10x twice a day with 30 seconds between each jump. The women were allowed to jump as high as they wanted or to lift heels up and drop heels to the floor, while the control group did not change their daily activities.

After four months, Dr. Tucker reported an increase of .5% in bone density by women jumping daily.. Not impressed? How about this…the control group LOST 1.3% bone density over the same period of time.

In summary exercises that involve impact such as the ones mentioned above must be performed daily. A video of simple and safe weight-bearing exercises you can do at home is included above with this article. We encourage you to choose one or two and do them each day.

Let’s move on from exercise to nutrition.

  • What goes in the body, powers the body! However, everyone is different and Parkinson’s Disease adds a “twist” to your nutritional journey so PLEASE consult with your physician before adding supplements to your daily nutritional plan.

The Parkinson’s Foundation offers the following recommendations as it pertains to vitamins and minerals.

Calcium- a mineral that your body needs to help maintain healthy bones.

Adults age 50 and older need 1200 mg calcium per day. That amount can be found in four glasses of fortified milk or four to six ounces of cheese. But, since these foods are high in protein, they may not be helpful for those using levodopa. In fact, some people have found that dairy foods more than other protein foods inhibit levodopa absorption. Getting enough calcium can be difficult when you have PD.

Here are some recommendations that will help to meet calcium requirements:

  • Calcium-fortified orange juice

  • Calcium-fortified rice- and soy- milk alternatives for use on cereal and in smoothies

  • Breakfast cereals and other foods fortified with calcium

  • It may also be necessary to use a calcium supplement. Calcium carbonate is the richest source of calcium, but some people cannot tolerate it. Calcium citrate is often a better choice. Chewable calcium tablets are better absorbed, because they are already broken down when they reach the stomach.

Vitamin D- Without adequate amounts of vitamin D, calcium cannot be absorbed by the body. Vitamin D is easy to get through about one hour per week outdoors in the sunshine with the face, hands, and arms exposed.

Because vitamin D is stored, our bodies can conserve enough D during the summer to last us through the winter. However, if you mostly stay indoors, you may not get enough vitamin D from sunlight. The current recommendation for vitamin D is 400 IUs daily (ten mcg) for people age fifty and older; and 600 IUs daily (15 mcg) for those over age 70.

Food Sources of Vitamin D:

  • Fortified foods, such as milk and milk substitutes, milk products, margarine, and cereals.

  • Fatty fish such as salmon, and fish liver oils, Liver, and Eggs.

Magnesium- Magnesium is just as important as calcium. It helps rebuild and strengthen bone. Magnesium also has some effect as a muscle relaxant, so may be beneficial to people with PD who experience muscle rigidity as a primary symptom.

  • Broccoli and other dark green vegetables

  • dried beans, peas, and whole grains are all rich in bone-building magnesium.

  • For adults, the RDA is 420 mg per day for men, 320 mg per day for women. Magnesium and calcium are often combined in over-the-counter nutritional supplements.

Vitamin K -This nutrient is also important, and not as difficult to get from foods as calcium and vitamin D. The adult requirement for vitamin K is 120 mcg for men and 90 mcg for women.

  • Dark green leafy vegetables such as collards, spinach, and chard

  • Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, and lettuce, all provide generous amounts of vitamin K

Avoid Low Calorie Diets- Stop counting calories! It wreaks havoc on your metabolism, initiates rebound hunger, lowers muscle mass AND detrimental to your bone health.

Avoid Smoking And Excessive Alcohol- An occasional drink is considered safe. However, chronic or excessive drinking will block the absorption of calcium which affects your bone density.

The above is not an exhaustive list and we will explore nutrition later in the bone health series. The important point is that even now you can make small changes that will make a huge impact on your future!

Now, the question is…where do you begin promoting bone health? How can Bridges For Parkinson’s assist you?

Next: “The Connection Between Bone Health And The Brain”- featuring Neuro-Physical Therapist, Megan Kelly and Renee Rouleau.


Parkinson’s Foundation

Cristina Mutchler- Very Well Health

WebMD- Osteoporosis Guide

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