Exercising with Osteoporosis

Today, October 20th marks World Osteoporosis Day. A day designed to raise awareness of the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis and bone disease.


So what is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition where your bones become fragile and brittle leading to a higher risk of fractures than in normal bones. Osteoporosis results in a loss of bone thickness (bone density) as the bones lose minerals, such as calcium, quicker than the body can replace them. Due to the decreased density of your bones, a minor bump or fall can cause a serious fracture. Osteoporosis usually has no symptoms until a fracture occurs – it is a painless disease until a fracture occurs.


Ok so how can osteoporosis be avoided or treated?

In order to maintain bone health it’s important to do the following: –

  • Enjoy a healthy diet rich in calcium and vitamin D

Calcium is contained in various foods, and particularly in dairy products.
Vitamin D is produced in the skin upon exposure to sunlight.

  • Participate in regular bone strengthening exercise

Regular weight bearing and muscle-strengthening exercise can help prevent bone loss. Also, by increasing balance and flexibility, exercise can reduce the risk of falling and breaking a bone but more on that in a minute…

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Maintaining a healthy body weight and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol intake helps keeps those bones healthy.

  • Minimise the risk of falling

Wear slip-proof shoes and fall-proof the home by installing things such as hand rails in the bathroom as well as ensuring walkways are free of hazards


So why should I exercise?

Research has shown that exercise can help bones adapt their size and shape so they become stronger and therefore can prevent injuries. Exercise also increases the strength of muscles and improves balance which can help minimise the likelihood of falling.

Approximately 1/3 of people over 65 fall each year and it’s estimated that around 6% result in a fracture. So are you starting to see why maintaining bone density and preventing falls is an important health issue?


Well what exercises are best for maintaining bone density?

  • Moderate intensity exercise that does not exacerbate pain
  • Aerobic weight bearing activities that provide impact for your bones such as step ups, walking, jogging, skipping, playing tennis
  • Supervised muscle strengthening exercises such as squats, lunges and push ups
  • Balancing tasks – exercises that assist with balance include supervised standing on one leg (increasing to standing on one leg with eyes closed), heel-toe walking and tai chi.
  • But before you get too excited and start sprinting it’s important you begin a light exercise program initially and gradually increase the amount of weight bearing exercise, resistance and level of impact


Get the most out of exercise!

  • Exercise should be regular (aim for 3 times/week if you’re just getting started)
  • Exercise should progress over time (amount of weight used, degree of difficulty etc must increase or vary over time to challenge muscles and bones)
  • Exercise routines should be varied


Are there any exercises I should avoid doing if I have osteoporosis?

  • Avoid non- weight bearing exercises if possible as this does not increase the strength of your bones
  • Exercises that involve high impact such as jumping
  • Exercises involving loaded flexion and rotation should be avoided


Where can I go to exercise in a safe environment?

Well firstly it is important to see your GP prior to commencing an exercise program to find our the severity of osteoporosis and to learn whether some bones are affected to a larger extent than others. This is important information to know because you can then tailor your exercise program to target these bones more prevalently. It is also advised you have a thorough assessment to check for any other existing conditions that may influence your exercise program.


Accredited Exercise Physiologist

Next up on your to-do list is to obtain a referral to an accredited exercise physiologist from your GP. The exercise physiologist will take you through a full screening to assist in prescribing the appropriate program to achieve your goals in a safe manner that will be tailored to your specific needs.


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