The Importance of Exercise for Osteoporosis
If you’re reading this, you probably already know osteoporosis is a disease that causes weakening of the bones. This can lead to fractures anywhere in the body, with the spine and the hips being particularly susceptible.
Although there are diet modifications and medications that can help with osteoporosis, an exercise routine may be the best way to reduce the chances of injuries.
Benefits of Exercise
Regular exercise as a child and into adulthood maximizes bone growth, which occurs until the age of 35. Continuing the exercise routine after the age of 35 decreases the chances of developing osteoporosis.
Exercise strengthens muscles and bones, which in turn leads to increased balance and coordination. This can decrease the chances of falls, which can lead to fractures.
An exercise routine also can maintain or improve the posture. If osteoporosis is causing back pain, exercise can also help to decrease pain.
However, if you did not have an organized exercise routine, are at high risk for developing osteoporosis, or already have osteoporosis, it is not too late to reap the benefits of beginning an exercise routine.
Medical Evaluation Prior to Exercise
Prior to beginning an exercise routine, you’ll probably need to be cleared by your doctor. A bone density assessment measures the mineral composition of your bones, which gives an estimation of the strength of the bones. This test can be performed by three different tests:
- Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) is the most accurate way to measure strength of bones. X-ray beams are passed through bones — strong bones allow less light to pass through.
- Peripheral dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (P-DXA) works similarly to DXA, but is used for peripheral bones, such as ankles and wrists. It is helpful because it can be used in outpatient clinics, such as doctors’ offices.
- Dual photon absorptiometry (DPA) uses radioactive iodine. The doses of iodine are slow, but the scan does take a longer time than DXA.
Types of Exercise
Once the doctor determines that you are safe to begin an exercise routine, it is time to decide which types of exercise incorporate into your new routine. Typically, a combination of weight-bearing exercises and muscle-strengthening exercises should be incorporated. Each has its own benefit.
Examples of weight-bearing exercise for osteoporosis include dancing, aerobics, hiking, jogging, using an elliptical machine, and walking. Some of these examples are high-impact, while others are low-impact. However, all examples can keep bones strong.
Your doctor may advise lower-impact exercises if you are higher risk of falls.
Examples of muscle-strengthening exercises include weight lifting, using resistance bands, lifting your own body weight, and functional body weight training. Strength training builds muscle and also maintains bone density.
It is advised to seek assistance with creating a strength-training program from a professional.
Stretches can help your muscles move well. It is best to stretch after your muscles have already been in motion — either at the end of the workout or after you have warmed up. You should, however, avoid stretches that flex the spine.
Building balance is also important. Building balance, along with strength, will help with fall prevention.
Balance exercises do not need to be complex; simple exercises such as alternating standing on one foot can build balance.
Yoga and Pilates
Preliminary research is actually showing that performing yoga regularly may improve bone density in people with osteoporosis. Further research is needed to prove this; however, performing yoga under the instruction of an instructor who understands the limitations of those with osteoporosis can help build strength and promote balance and flexibility.
Pilates is known to melt belly fat and a recent study shows that women with visceral fat have decreased bone density levels. This study is correlating a reduction in visceral fat with increased bone density levels.