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During childhood and into young adulthood, bone formation occurs faster than bone loss, causing bones to grow and become heavier and more dense. As a person ages, the process of bone removal gradually overtakes bone formation, and bones slowly lose strength as part of the normal aging process.
Fortunately, there are many ways to help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Regular weight-bearing exercise (such as brisk walking, dancing, aerobics, and jogging) helps to develop and maintain healthy bones. Bicycling and swimming are excellent exercises for general fitness, but these are NOT weight-bearing exercises, and they do not help to build strong bones. Exercises that are especially good for bone health include higher-impact weight-bearing activities, such as hopping, jogging, and jumping rope. Resistance exercises, such as light weight lifting, also help to build strong bones and are especially important for bones of the upper body, including the arms and shoulders. People with heart problems or painful bones or joints should discuss their individual health status and cancer treatment history with a healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program.
After reviewing an individual’s treatment history and risk factors, a healthcare provider can decide if bone density testing is advisable. For those at risk, a bone density scan is generally done at age 18, but this can be done at an earlier age if needed. The timing of the test is based on evaluation of each individual patient. Follow-up scans may be needed for ongoing monitoring of bone density in some patients.