Managing Osteoporosis with Proper Exercise
The Doctor says, “You have osteoporosis, you should do weight bearing exercises.” So get out there and do it! If you are like most, your response is likely to be, “Ok great, now what in the heck does do some weight bearing exercise mean?”
Should I run sprints, do sit ups, or pull downs? Swim, stretch, or do yoga? To help clarify, here are some things you should know about osteoporosis and how you can manage osteoporosis with proper exercise.
Osteoporosis is a skeletal disorder characterized by compromised bone strength, predisposing one to an increased risk of fracture. Osteopenia is a lesser form of osteoporosis.
Bone health information:
- 1 of 2 women, and 1 of 4 men 50 years plus have low bone density and are at risk of fracture.
- The spine and the hip are the 2 bones most prone to osteoporosis and fractures.
- Risk of spinal fractures increase as you go up the spine with the highest risk at the T6-8 (mid back) vertebral levels.
- Bone is a dynamic tissue, constantly re-modeling in response to stimulus (resistance).
- Bone responds positively to the pull on the bone from muscles
Weight bearing exercises by definition are exercises that oppose gravity, but to be effective the exercises must:
- Be specific to build bone in targeted areas.
- Work to improve strength and balance.
- Be of moderate to high impact to maximize the benefit.
- Be done for 30-60 minutes at least 3 days/week.
The following exercises have been shown to increase bone density:
- High impact aerobics (things like dancing, Jazzercise, jumping rope)
- Weight training – weightlifting exercises
These exercises have been shown to protect from the loss of bone:
- Low impact aerobics
And these exercises have been shown to be ineffective with bone growth, and may result in the loss of bone:
- Water aerobics
If you have osteoporosis that targets the spine and the hips, your exercise should include spinal exercise, particularly extension or back bending type exercise. Contrarily, exercises that should be avoided are exercises which focus on flexion or forward bending, like crunches (flexion exercises have been shown to increase the risk of fracture in those with osteoporosis.)
We know it can be confusing, but the benefits of doing the right exercise can be great, and you should start exercising as soon as possible. However, before you start make sure to do your homework. Some forms of exercise may be ineffective, or even harmful if you are not careful. Exercising to fight osteoporosis should be specific, of the right intensity, and of a type proven to help build bone.