Have you been diagnosed with osteoporosis? According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, 10.2 million Americans have been diagnosed with this disease, which is a loss of bone density. Osteoporosis can rob us of our independence as we grow older. This condition is a major cause of back pain, spinal problems, and broken bones—including serious hip fractures.
Our risk of developing osteoporosis is partly genetic, and partly lifestyle factors. Our bone strength is largely determined when we are young. If we eat a diet that’s rich in calcium and with enough vitamin D earlier in life, we’re building stronger bones for our later years.
At any age, exercise promotes bone health, including people who are living with osteoporosis. Many patients are inclined to avoid exercise, fearing that they’ll fall. But in fact, inactivity raises the risk of falling by decreasing our sense of balance, weakening our muscles—and even weakening our bones.
Exercise for People with Osteoporosis
Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking or using an elliptical training machine. These are activities we do while standing up, making our bodies work against gravity. They can actually strengthen the bones—as the National Institutes of Health puts it, “The pull of muscles is a reminder to the cells in your bones that they need to keep the tissue dense.”
Muscle-strengthening exercises, such as lifting weights or using elastic exercise bands. Also called resistance training, these activities can also strengthen our bones, and also our muscles. The stronger our muscles are, the better they can support our bones and help us avoid falling. These exercises also improve our posture.
Stability and Balance-Improving Activities
Osteoporosis raises the risk of a serious fall injury, so fall prevention is important. We can improve our sense of balance and stability with special exercises, such as balance training or tai chi.
Stretching activities, such as certain types of yoga, can also reduce our risk of falling and keep our muscles working well.
Low-impact exercises such as walking or using an elliptical trainer are generally better than jogging or high-impact aerobics. Certain yoga poses may be unsafe. And of course, activities that often cause falls, such as cycling or skiing, should be avoided. A physical therapist can provide instruction about safe body mechanics during exercise.
This article is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Talk to your doctor about managing osteoporosis, and about exercise activities that are safe for you