Osteoporosis and Exercise

Osteoporosis and Exercise

According to the experts in the subject, one of the best ways to prevent osteoporosis is by engaging in regular exercise.   However, even after osteoporosis has occurred in your body, exercising can help maintain the bone mass that you currently have.

WHY EXERCISE MATTERS IN THE MATTER OF OSTEOPOROSIS

When you exercise, you are building more than just muscle and endurance; you are also building and maintaining the amount and thickness of your bones – also known as bone mass and density.  Three types of exercise especially beneficial for those dealing with osteoporosis are:

  1. Weight-bearing
  2. Resistance
  3. Flexibility

All three types of exercise are crucial in building strong, healthy bones.  Let’s look at each of these types of exercise, what they mean, and examples to incorporate into your everyday life.

Weight-Bearing Exercise

A weight-bearing exercise is one where your feet and legs fully support the weight of your body.  For example, walking, hiking, stair climbing, and dancing are all examples of weight-bearing exercises.  Though biking and swimming are great for cardiovascular health, they are not weight-bearing as something else is supporting your body (i.e. the water and the bike).

Walking – or dancing – as little as three to five times a week can help build your bone health.  In general, at least a half and hour of moderate to vigorous exercise five times a week is recommended by the experts.    A fun and effective dance routine can be found here (if you like country dance) or here (if you prefer something more hip-hop), or here (if you want something more beginner level).

Resistance Exercises

Resistance simply means that you are working against the weight of another object – resisting it.  This resistance strengthens muscle and build bone, thus helping with the bone loss of osteoporosis.  In many studies, it has been shown that resistance exercises increase bone density and reduces the risk of fractures.

Exercises in this category include free or machine weights in the gym or at home, resistance tubing that comes in a variety of strengths, and water exercises – as any movement done in the water will make your muscles work harder.    Click here for an effective resistance program.  This one also has some awesome routines for resistance training.

Plan to do resistance exercise two or three times a week.  By gradually adding weight or repetitions, you can make the exercises progressively harder.   Also, be sure to work all the major muscle groups – arms, chest, shoulders, legs, abdominal muscles, back.  Give each muscle group a day to rest before working them again.

Flexibility Exercises

Having flexible joints helps to prevent injuries.  Some examples of flexibility exercises include yoga, stretching and tai chi.    I personally use this yoga/pilates mix of flexibility.  

According to the University of California, Berkeley, tai chi can improve balance and coordination, memory, and sleep.   It also aids in the reduction of anxiety, depression, and falls.   In addition, it has been shown to reduce chronic back pain and knee pain.   In a 2016 study, individuals with recent fall injuries who engaged in tai chi were significantly less likely to fall, and significantly less likely to be injured if they did fall.   (Journal of the American Geriatric Society, 2016).  In a 2017 study in the same journal, “older people who did tai chi (one to three times per week) had a 43 percent reduction in falls within three to six months, compared to usual care of other interventions.   This tai chi program is one used by my own 82-year-old mother on a daily basis.

Conclusion

Exercise is crucial to healthy living.   Weight-bearing, resistance, and flexibility exercises are especially crucial to both prevent and treat osteoporosis.    For help choosing a program to help you reach YOUR goals, message me and let’s begin your journey to wellness.

For a nurse’s perspective, check out this blog post about osteoporosis.

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