If you have osteoporosis, you know it can weaken your bones and make them more brittle. Bones that are weaker can fracture more easily. In fact, osteoporosis causes 2 million bone breaks a year, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
You can’t feel your bones losing density, which is caused by hormonal changes and vitamin D and calcium deficiencies. An unexpected fracture from a minor fall or high-impact exercise can be the first sign that your bones are becoming more brittle. So how can you protect yourself?
Should I Avoid Exercise If I Have Osteoporosis?
The idea of falling and breaking a bone may make you feel anxious. But this doesn’t mean you should avoid exercise. Exercise is an effective way to manage osteoporosis. Your doctor may recommend workouts that promote strength, mobility, coordination, balance, and flexibility.
Daily exercise will promote good muscle mass and, in turn, provide spinal support through stature and balance. This will help prevent future falls.
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Can Exercise Increase Bone Density in Women With Osteoporosis?
It’s hard to get a clear answer to this question, but researchers are trying.
Exercise builds bone in children and throughout adulthood. But can you continue to build bone after menopause (when women are at risk for osteoporosis)?
A 2018 review paper looked at 18 studies on exercise and osteoporosis. It found that exercise can have a small, but possibly significant, effect on bone density in postmenopausal women.
Researchers found a more profound effect on building bone density when combining resistance training with cardio workouts as part of a weekly routine.
What Are the Best Exercises for People With Osteoporosis?
The best exercise is one you enjoy, and it often helps to work out with family and friends. If you dislike the pool, don’t swim because you’ve read it’s beneficial for people with osteoporosis. In the same way, if you enjoy walking, find a way to incorporate more walking into your day.
A low-level yoga class with a skilled instructor can help with flexibility. Talk with the instructor about your osteoporosis diagnosis. They may be able to make modifications so you can participate in the class with little risk. And if your body tolerates the low-level classes well, you may choose to steadily increase the level of intensity.
Ultimately, you should talk to your doctor about the best workout options for you before starting an exercise program. Sit down with your primary care provider (PCP) to discuss your goals. Be sure to have appropriate lab work (including imaging that measures bone density) before starting your new regimen. Your PCP may even refer you to a physical therapist, orthopaedic specialist, or a rehabilitative medicine specialist.
What’s a Good Osteoporosis Exercise Plan?
Research shows that two kinds of exercise can benefit people with osteoporosis. A good osteoporosis exercise plan incorporates both types of exercise into your weekly workout routine.
Keep in mind that walking is one of the best low-impact exercises available and can be as easy as walking out your front door. Other exercise options are also available.
1. Weight-bearing aerobic exercise uses your legs or arms to support the weight. This includes high-impact and low-impact activities. If you have broken a bone, you may need to avoid high-impact exercises, like running (always check with your doctor).
Low-impact exercise includes:
- Elliptical machine
- Low-impact aerobics
- Stair-climber machine
- Tai chi
2. Resistance training exercises involve moving your joints against some form of resistance. This resistance can be weights or exercise bands, a machine, or your own body weight.
Resistance training exercises include:
- Lifting weights (using free weights, machine weights, or exercise bands).
- Yoga, Pilates, or other core exercise classes with skilled instructors and modifications.
- Calisthenics, which rely on your own body weight.
- Swimming (water provides resistance).
- Functional motion, such as core exercises to help focus on your pelvis, lower back, hips, and abdomen. Others include strengthening your quad/hamstring balance, and foot/ankle stabilizing exercises.
In all the exercises you do, it’s important to use good posture. Physical therapists (PTs) are an integral part of the osteoporosis prescription. Working closely with a PT will help ensure you are doing exercises properly and maintaining form. They can help design a program tailored to you that you can use at the gym or at home.
To learn more about UPMC Orthopaedic Care or schedule an appointment, call 1-866-987-6784 or visit our website.
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About UPMC Orthopaedic Care
As a national leader in advanced orthopaedic care, UPMC treats a full range of musculoskeletal disorders, from the acute and chronic to the common and complex. Whether you have bone, muscle, or joint pain, we provide access to UPMC’s vast network of support services for both surgical and nonsurgical treatments and a full continuum of care. As leaders in research and clinical trials with cutting-edge tools and techniques, UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside appears on U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of the top hospitals in the country for orthopaedics.