The NHS is taking note of Osteoporosis
You don’t want more fractures., but exercise helps protect your bones
– Tips on staying active safely
Osteoporosis is a major cause of disability in older women. and to a lesser extent in men. Having osteoporosis often results in fractures in the hip and spine — which can severely impair your mobility and independence.
So how do you reduce your risk of life-altering injuries?
Exercise can help. Certain types of exercise strengthen muscles and bones, while other types are designed to improve your balance — which can help prevent falls.
Benefits of Exercise
It’s never too late to start exercising. For postmenopausal women, regular physical activity can:
- Increase your muscle strength
- Improve your balance
- Decrease your risk of bone fracture
- Maintain or improve your posture
- Relieve or decrease pain
Exercising if you have osteoporosis means finding the safest, most enjoyable activities for you given your overall health and amount of bone loss. There’s no one-size-fits-all prescription.
Before you start
Think about what kind of activities you enjoy most. If you choose an exercise you enjoy, you’re more likely to stick with it over time.
Choosing the right form of exercise
These types of activities are often recommended for people with osteoporosis:
- Strength training exercises, especially those for the upper back
- Weight-bearing aerobic activities
- Flexibility exercises
- Stability and balance exercises
Because of the varying degrees of osteoporosis and the risk of fracture, you might be discouraged from doing certain exercises. Ask your doctor or physio which exercises are best for you.
Strength training includes the use of free weights, resistance bands or your own body weight to strengthen all major muscle groups, especially spinal muscles important for posture. Resistance training can also help maintain bone density.
If you use weight machines, take care not to twist your spine while performing exercises or adjusting the machines.
Resistance training should be tailored to your ability and tolerance, especially if you have pain. A physical therapist or personal trainer with experience working with people with osteoporosis can help you develop strength-training routines. Proper form and technique are crucial to prevent injury and getting the most from your workout.
Weight-bearing aerobic activities
Weight-bearing aerobic activities involve doing aerobic exercise on your feet, with your bones supporting your weight. Examples include walking, dancing, low-impact aerobics, elliptical training machines, stair climbing and gardening.
These types of exercise work directly on the bones in your legs, hips and lower spine to slow mineral loss. They also provide cardiovascular benefits, which boost heart and circulatory system health.
It’s important that aerobic activities, as beneficial as they are for your overall health, are not the whole of your exercise program. It’s also important to work on strength, flexibility and balance.
Swimming and cycling have many benefits, but they don’t provide the weight-bearing load your bones need to slow mineral loss. However, if you enjoy swimming, there are ways of exercising in water that can be beneficial;
For many people, they have so many fractures they can be wary of exercising on dry land, so doing exercises in water cushions you – if you fall, it’s no great deal. Ask your physio to show you appropriate exercises, or go to a centre that specialises in appropriate care.
When I went to Casciane Terme, in Italy, they showed me how to do suitable exercise including
- Star jumps
- Walking on the spot – lifting the knees high
- Walking through water and making use of water resistance
Some centres in the UK (i.e. some Circle private hospitals) offer aquatreadmills.
I found this video showing how these machines can help; the glass cabin sides enable a physio to see how your muscles are performing and are a big help – although I don’t recommend trying the back flips!
Moving your joints through their full range of motion helps you keep your muscles working well.
Stability and balance exercises
Fall prevention is especially important for people with osteoporosis. Stability and balance exercises help your muscles work together in a way that keeps you more stable and less likely to fall. Simple exercises such as standing on one leg or movement-based exercises such as tai chi can improve your stability and balance.
Movements to avoid
I went on the web, and noticed some excellent information from the Mayo Clinic, in the USA. They say if you have osteoporosis, don’t do the following types of exercises:
- High-impact exercises. Activities such as jumping, running or jogging can lead to fractures in weakened bones. Avoid jerky, rapid movements in general. Choose exercises with slow, controlled movements. If you’re generally fit and strong despite having osteoporosis, however, you might be able to engage in somewhat higher-impact exercise than can someone who is frail. Ask the advice of a physio.
- Bending and twisting. Exercises in which you bend forward at the waist and twist your waist, such as touching your toes or doing sit-ups, can increase your risk of compression fractures in your spine if you have osteoporosis. Other activities that may require you to bend or twist forcefully at the waist are golf, tennis, bowling and some yoga poses.
If you’re not sure how healthy your bones are, talk to your doctor. Don’t let fear of fractures keep you from having fun and being active.
The Royal Osteoporosis Society are a mine of helpful information, and the £24 annual fee is well worth it for Helpline advice alone 0808 800 0035 https://theros.org.uk/