Silver Fit


Exercise is your ally in the fight against this debilitating disease says biokineticist Hannah Raath of Silver Fit

The reason osteoporosis is often referred to as the silent disease is because it sneaks up on you without any symptoms. You’re busy living your life and then bam! you break or fracture a wrist, an arm or a hip and you’re diagnosed with osteoporosis.



Osteoporosis is a disease that causes the bone density to decrease. This can happen gradually without you being aware of it. When you are young, the body breaks down the calcium in bones when it needs it and then builds it up again. As you age, it’s unable to produce as much calcium as it did before, and the bones gradually become more porous. With osteoporosis, this bone loss is accelerated, especially post menopause, leaving you extremely vulnerable to breaks and fractures.



While women are more likely to contract it than men, men are also at risk. However, certain people are more susceptible. They are:

  • Over 60
  • Fair skinned
  • Underweight for height
  • Smokers
  • Those who consume more than two units of alcohol several times a week.
  • Those with a family history of osteoporosis
  • Inactive and sedentary

Illnesses such as cancer and multiple sclerosis and medical treatments like radiation and chemotherapy can also increase your chances of developing osteoporosis.

If you fall into the susceptible category, it’s essential to have a bone density test as soon as possible. While there is no cure, there are treatments to slow the rate of bone loss, and your doctor will recommend the best one for you.

Doctors and medications aside, there are other steps you can take to prevent the onset of the disease and minimise its effects on your body.



“What many people don’t realise is that exercise plays a vital role in the fight against osteoporosis,” says Johannesburg biokineticist Hannah Raath. The founder of Silver Fit, a fitness programme designed for the over 60s, she explains, “Because you are working against gravity, weight-bearing exercises such as walking and weight training help you build up bone mass and strengthen bones and muscles whether you have osteoporosis or not.” Aim to do around half an hour of exercise three to four times a week.

“As our exercise programme is specifically for seniors, many of our members suffer from some degree of osteoporosis. In addition to weight-bearing exercises, we encourage these members to do balance training. This strengthens the legs and decreases the chance of falling which in some cases can be fatal.”

Hannah recommends extension movements for those suffering from curvature of the spine. “These improve the posture and straighten rounded shoulders. By strengthening your spine there is less risk of breaking a vertebra,” she says.

“To cope with everyday activities try functional exercises. For example if you find it difficult to get up from a chair or climb stairs, do these activities as an exercise to build up the bones and muscles required. Stand up and sit down several times until you are tired. Do this every day, increasing the number of times you do it.”



Calcium supplements can also help prevent and slow the disease. Ask your doctor to recommend the correct type and amount. Don’t take more than the prescribed dose as the body can only absorb so much calcium. To ensure that your body absorbs calcium, you’ll need Vitamin D. Again, your doctor will prescribe the dosage and the best way to obtain it – through sunlight, supplements or diet.



Make sure you eat plenty of calcium-rich foods such as milk, butter and yoghurt and leafy greens like broccoli, kale and spinach. Include oily fish with soft edible bones. Salmon, pilchards and sardines are good examples. Eat the bones as they contain calcium. Nuts are also high in calcium so add these to your diet. Good sources of Vitamin D are egg yolks, beef liver and the oily fish mentioned above.


For more information about osteoporosis and available treatments, contact NOFSA (National Osteoporosis Foundation of South Africa).