Osteoporosis is the disease that results in the reduction of density and quality of bones. The risk of fracture is greatly increased as bones become more and more porous and fragile. The loss of bone is progressive and gradual. Usually, one is not able to notice any symptoms until the first fracture occurs.
The cause of osteoporosis is the process, which is called remodeling. Remodeling happens when cells start dissolving bone matrix as a result of resorption, while new bone cells start depositing osteoid, which is formation.
In people suffering from osteoporosis(1), the spaces between bones are more than the space covered by bones itself. Thus bones become brittle and are more prone to fracture.
The best treatment for osteoporosis is having a healthy exercise regime. Several people have reservations that exercising when you have osteoporosis may increase their chances of breaking a bone. However, having a laid-out exercise program strengthens your bones and reduces the chances for a fracture.
This is because the exercise improves balance and flexibility, which is more important for people having osteoporosis. However, it is always better to consult with your doctor before you finalize an exercise regime if you already have osteoporosis.
Did You Know?
- Getting the right amount of calcium is only the first step in the treatment of osteoporosis. Several people believe that having enough calcium only will reduce their chance of developing the disease. While this is partially true, restraining from excessive drinking, smoking and working out regularly are some other requirements to avoid osteoporosis.
- There’s a big possibility that osteoporosis can go undetected for several years before it is diagnosed. Thus, regular bone density scans are suggested for people, especially women, above the age of 65 years. This is the age at which estrogen levels start decreasing and bones start getting thinner.
Exercises for Osteoporosis
There are several weight-bearing exercises for osteoporosis, which is however not about lifting a lot of weight beyond one’s capabilities like in the gym.
Instead, this is more about fighting the pull of gravity so that your body has enough strength to keep you upright, catalyzing fighting osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercises for osteoporosis are divided into two segments:
High-impact workouts: These include brisk walking, dancing, hiking, climbing flights of stairs, jogging, jumping rope, aerobics, racquet games including tennis and yard work such as pushing a lawnmower.
High-impact exercises are usually suggested to patients who are not very old and the bone density is not too low.
Low-impact workouts: The kind of workout depends on the stage of osteoporosis that you have and high-impact workouts may not be ideal if the bone density is very less.
For such cases, there are low-impact exercises, especially for older patients. Some low-impact exercises include elliptical training machines, low-impact aerobics, walking in the open or on a treadmill machine and working on a stair-step machine.
If you’ve just been diagnosed with osteoporosis, and you’ve not been working out for several years or months, you’re suggested to start with low-impact exercises for few minutes daily and then gradually move on to 30 minutes of high-intensity exercises every day.
[Read: Yoga for Osteoporosis]
Interesting Facts about Osteoporosis
- Low bone density is not the same as osteoporosis. There is another condition known as osteopenia, which is also associated with low bone density. People who have osteopenia have a major chance of developing osteoporosis. However, other treatment methods can cure it before the disease is developed.
- There is no conclusive cure for osteoporosis. However, there is a treatment plan, which will be very effective in slowing the process of bone loss and reducing the chances of a fracture. In addition to treatment and medication, exercises, calcium intake and less smoking also help in fighting the disease.
Apart from exercises for patients who have osteoporosis, there are no-impact exercises for osteoporosis, for people who are not suffering from the disease.
However, it is suggested to keep exercising so that the body does not develop osteoporosis. Some of the diseases in this category include Yoga and Pilates(2). Routines like these improve the strength in the bones and also lend flexibility and balance.
However, as we’ve already discussed, it is likely that osteoporosis is present and not yet diagnosed, it is suggested to consult the doctor before taking up any exercise routine.
Further, there are several posture exercises for osteoporosis of the spine, which head a lot since posture is a point of a question for most individuals working on computers all day.
Also, there’s a fourth category of exercises that majorly allow you to strengthen your muscles. Usage of elastic exercise bands, free weights, and weight machines can be considered 2-3 times a week so that muscles are strengthened.
These exercises are not the core exercises for osteoporosis, as they do not impact the bones directly.
However, there is a lesser chance of fracture if muscles are developed well. Apart from the exercises mentioned above, one may also consider push-ups and squats to develop the muscles.
[Read: Exercises for Back Pain Relief]
What Exercises Are Good for Osteoporosis?
For any exercises for osteoporosis that have been mentioned above, the doctor should be consulted. There are numerous factors like obesity, high blood pressure, family history and heart diseases that have to be considered.
You might even consider a physical therapist who will guide you on specific aspects of body mechanics, posture, balance, technique, and resistance.