Exercise and Osteoporsis
Physical Activity and Strong Bones
Regular exercise/physical activity at any time in your life is good for your heart, muscle tone, flexibility, and coordination. In children and young adults, exercise is necessary to build strong bones. After peak bone mass is reached (usually by age 25), exercise plays an important role in regulating bone metabolism and maintaining bone mass. Exercise builds general muscle strength, improves posture, body mechanics and promotes balance. Strong muscles give stability to the joints and help prevent falls. Increased muscle mass cushions bones in the event of a fall. Osteoporosis not only affects bone density, it also makes your muscles weak. Hence, a general body exercise program, targeting arms, legs, spine and abdominal muscles is recommended for maintaining healthy bones.An exercise program consisting of strength, flexibility, balance and stamina-building exercises is highly beneficial for Osteoporosis. Flexibility, balance and stamina-building exercises could be performed everyday and strengthening exercises two to three times a week. Exercise acts as a stimulus to bones and encourages bone formation. Routine exercise also helps in regulating bone metabolism.
Exercises for Osteoporosis
- Weight Bearing Exercise is any physical activity in which your body works against gravity. It simply means that your legs and feet are supporting or carrying your weight. This type of exercise builds bone mass in youth and maintains it in adulthood. Some examples of weight-bearing exercises include walking, racquet sports, dancing, climbing stairs, and many team sports. Swimming and bicycling are not weight-bearing exercises but will strengthen muscles.
- Muscle Strengthening Exercise is any exercise in which you work against a resistance such as free weights, elastic bands and resistance machines like leg-press. These exercises build muscle to help support your bones and can improve or maintain bone strength. It is very important to perform these exercises in correct form and posture to avoid injury. Your physical therapist can help in designing a safe and beneficial strengthening program.
- Postural Training Exercise promotes correct posture and proper body alignment. These exercises can help minimize stooped posture resulting from osteoporosis. Pulling your shoulders back, tucking your chin are examples of postural training exercises. Seek help from your physical therapist to evaluate your postural problems and suggest corrective exercises.
- Stretching Exercise keeps your body flexible by lengthening muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Stretching helps maintain the motion needed to prevent loss of balance. Sitting up tall while stretching your arms overhead with fingers interlocked is an example of a stretching exercise.
- Balance Exercise may help reduce your risk of falling. Tai Chi is an example of a balance exercise that also strengthens muscles. In addition to physical activity, fall prevention strategies must include education about risk factors, home and environmental modifications and assessment of medications to minimize side effects which may be impairing your balance.
Avoid certain movements and positions during physical activity and daily activities:
- Spinal flexion: Avoid forward bending/flexing of the spine during all exercises and movements. Bending of the spine puts undue stress on each of your back bones and could cause fractures. This could include movements where the back is curved too much like toe touches, curl-ups, sit-ups and reaching for the floor with straight legs.
- Excessive spinal rotation: Rotation of spine means turning while your legs are stationary. Rotation of spine produced excessive torque/force around vertebral bodies and may lead to fractures, especially when you bear weight on your spine like in standing or seated position.
- Lifting: To prevent injury, avoid heavy lifting. Also, be sure to ask your physical therapist about the right body mechanics for lifting objects needed during activities of daily living.
Follow Safe Activity Guidelines
- Exercise in a pain-free range of motion.
- Exercise in your best posture.
- Breathe through the exercise; do not hold your breath.
- Exercise with smooth, steady movements.
- Always keep a slight bend in arms and legs.
- If you have had a broken bone or total hip replacement, follow the precautions suggested by your health care provider and/or physical therapist.
- After muscle-building exercises, muscle soreness up to a few days is common. Be aware of any exercise that causes more persistent pain. Discontinue it and consult your physical therapist about whether this exercise is right for you.
Physical activity needs to be tailored to your age and health status
It is always important to follow the recommendations of your health care provider and/or physical therapist. They will know the best, safest physical activities for you, taking all of your medical conditions and/or physical limitations into consideration. Your physical therapist can advise you on correct intensity, frequency and duration of an exercise program based on your goals. Even if you are limited in the type or amount of exercise you can do, any safe physical activity is better than no exercise!
Most fractures occur as a result of a fall. Consult your health care provider or physical therapist and learn the right kind of exercise to avoid injury and risk of a fall.
Considerations for safe exercise/physical activity
It is important to speak with your health care provider before starting a physical activity program. If you have or had a medical condition, or if you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, and/or if you have a history of broken bones, it is often beneficial to get a prescription from your health care provider for a physical therapy consultation before starting your exercise program. Aging adults, people with medical conditions and those with physical disabilities can benefit from supervised exercise. Taking these precautions will help make sure that your physical activity is safe.