Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bone density to drop, increasing your risk of fractures and breaks. The condition affects millions of people around the world—particularly those over the age of 50—and can be difficult to manage.
One major element of osteoporosis management that is often misunderstood is exercise. Many people think that staying active with osteoporosis can increase their risk of getting a fracture due to increased pressure on the bones.
While some exercises are not appropriate for people with osteoporosis, gentle activity is very important for maintaining bone density and staying healthy throughout your years. This means that finding the right exercise routine is imperative to lifelong health and comfort in spite of your condition.
Exercises to avoid with osteoporosis
Exercise often frightens people with osteoporosis, since excessive movement or impact can damage already weakened bones and result in a fracture. While exercise is important, this fear is valid when it comes to certain exercises and sports.
People with osteoporosis will want to avoid partaking in high-impact exercises, which put intense pressure on already brittle bones. Activities like running, jogging and jumping may be dangerous and lead to fractures. Additionally, steer clear of high-impact sports like football, basketball, rugby, wrestling and soccer.
Osteoporosis can also make bending and twisting dangerous, especially in the hips and back. Tennis, yoga and golf movements may not be suitable, because they often require sudden bends and twists in the back. Twisting in this way can put pressure on your spine and puts you at risk for compression fractures.
Good exercises for people with osteoporosis
Although some exercises are not suitable for people with osteoporosis, this does not mean that all exercise should be avoided. In fact, some level of exercise is extremely important for building and maintaining bone density and building muscle so the body remains strong. Exercise can also help you improve balance and flexibility so falls are less likely. Exercise is a critical component of osteoporosis management and should not be ignored altogether.
A combination of different types of exercises (including weight-bearing, strength and balance/flexibility) are important.
One of the most important types of exercise is gentle, weight-bearing aerobic exercise. This may include things like walking outside or on a treadmill, dancing, elliptical training and stair climbing. These exercises are important because they rely on the strength of your bones—particularly those in the legs and hips—to support your body’s weight, which can help slow density loss and even rebuild bone density.
Strength training exercises, including free weights, machine exercises and using resistance bands to build muscle, are also important for strengthening the body as a whole. All muscle groups should be exercised in this way.
Finally, flexibility and balance can be worked on through exercises like Tai chi and yoga. However, you must be careful with these programs to avoid any stretches or poses that put too much pressure on the spine.
Swimming and water exercises may also be completed; however, they are not good as weight-bearing movements since the water supports the body. That being said, swimming is still good for improving muscular strength and aerobic abilities, and it may be useful for people with advanced osteoporosis and pain because it is much gentler and more supportive.
If you have osteoporosis, you should try to exercise for 30 minutes each day—focusing on weight-bearing exercise in particular. While exercising, always use slow, controlled movements—not fast and jerky ones—to avoid injury.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that not everyone’s osteoporosis diagnosis will be the same, and some people may have greater athletic abilities than others, depending on their condition’s advancement. This means that certain exercises may not be appropriate for everyone, and your exercise routine should be tailored to you as an individual.
Before beginning an exercise regimen, speak with your doctor or physical therapist to determine which exercises are most appropriate for you and which you should stay away from to avoid fractures.
Additional treatments for osteoporosis
Gentle exercise is only one aspect of a healthy osteoporosis management strategy. It is often combined with natural strategies for lifelong bone density management, as well as medication, if necessary.
These strategies may include maintaining a healthy weight so the bones are not put under unnecessary pressure, as well as eating a healthy and balanced diet. A reduction in drinking alcohol and quitting smoking is also usually important, as these things can stall bone density growth.
Perhaps most important is the healthy intake of calcium and vitamin D, either through diet or supplements. Calcium is needed for bone growth and strength, while vitamin D is necessary to improve calcium absorption in the body.
With a well-rounded management strategy incorporating healthy diets, supplements and the right exercise routine, you’ll have a better chance of avoiding fractures and pain due to osteoporosis.