You may worry that being active means you’re more likely to fall and break a bone. But, the opposite is true. A regular, properly designed exercise may actually help prevent falls and fractures. That is because exercise strengthens bones and muscles and improves balance, coordination, and flexibility. That’s key for people with osteoporosis. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, engaging in 120 to 300 minutes of at least moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week can reduce the risk of hip fractures. Performing balance and muscle strengthening activities each week along with moderate – intensity aerobic activity can help prevent falls in older adults. Here are a few recommendations for exercises that focus on body mechanics, posture and balance:
Weight Bearing Exercise:
Don’t let the name fool you- these types of workouts aren’t about pumping iron. They are exercises you do on your feet so that your bones and muscles have to work against gravity to keep you upright. Walking and climbing stairs are a couple of examples. Your bones react to the weight on them by building themselves up and getting stronger. Weight-bearing exercises stimulate the cells that make new bone. By increasing weight-bearing exercises, you encourage your body to form more bone. This can delay, or even reverse the destructive process of osteoporosis that results in painful or debilitating fractures. Weight bearing exercises can be low- impact or high-impact.
High-impact, weight-bearing exercises help build bones and keep them strong. These exercises include: dancing, high-impact aerobics, hiking, jogging/running, jumping rope, stair climbing,and tennis. If you have broken a bone due to osteoporosis, or are at risk of breaking a bone, you may need to avoid high-impact exercises. If you’re not sure, you should check with your healthcare provider.
Low-impact, weight-bearing exercises can also help keep bones strong and are a safe alternative if you cannot do high-impact exercises. Examples of low-impact, weight-bearing exercises are: elliptical training machines, low-impact aerobics, stair-step machines, and fast walking on a treadmill or outside. In both cases your bones react to the weight on them by building themselves up and getting stronger. By increasing weight-bearing exercises, you encourage your body to form more bone. This can delay, or even reverse, the destructive process of osteoporosis that results in painful or debilitating fractures.
Strengthen Your Muscles:
By adding strength training to your exercise routine, you improve your muscle strength and flexibility and reduce the likelihood of falling. Working your muscles is just as important as building up bone. It can slow the bone loss that happens with osteoporosis and may help prevent fall-related fractures. These workouts can include basic moves such as standing and rising on your toes, lifting your own body weight with exercises like push-ups or squats, exercise bands, and free weights (even water bottles).
Non Impact Exercises:
These moves don’t directly strengthen your bones. They can, though, improve your coordination, flexibility, and muscle strength. That will lower the chance that you’ll fall and break a bone. You can do these every day. Balance exercises such as Tai chi, Yoga, and Pilates can strengthen your leg muscles and help stabilize you. Posture exercises can help you work against the “sloping” shoulders that can happen with osteoporosis, and lower your chances of spine fractures.
Before you start a new routine, check with your provider first. They can tell you what’s safe for your stage of osteoporosis, your fitness level, and your weight. Check out my stretches and exercises every Tuesday to learn new ways to stretch and mobilize safely.
Exercise can benefit almost everyone with osteoporosis and is a great part of a treatment plan. It’s controversial whether getting more calcium and vitamin D will have any effect on osteoporosis, but there is no question not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and decreasing alcohol intake does help. The days of dealing with the consequences of osteoporosis- fractures, frail bones, and a hunchback- will hopefully become a thing of the past. There are too many ways to keep this from happening in your future.
Work with your healthcare provider to figure out the best ways to stay healthy and strong.