How to Exercise Safely When You Have Osteoporosis

How to Exercise Safely When You Have Osteoporosis

How to Exercise Safely When You Have Osteoporosis

It’s never too late to start an exercise program for bone health, even if you already have osteoporosis. You may be worried that being active means you’re more likely to fall and break a bone. However, the opposite is true.

A regular, well-designed exercise program can help prevent falls and fractures. Exercise strengthens bones and muscles and improves balance, coordination, and flexibility. This is the key for people with osteoporosis.

What Is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is the loss of calcium and other minerals from a person’s bones, which makes the bones susceptible to fracture. In Australia, around half of women and a third of men over the age of 60 suffer from osteoporosis. Women are more likely to have osteoporosis because the hormonal changes of menopause worsen bone loss.

A nutritious diet that includes calcium-rich foods and regular exercise throughout a person’s life, including childhood and adolescence, will reduce the risk of osteoporosis later. People with osteoporosis can also benefit from exercise. Indeed, a sedentary lifestyle (little exercise) promotes bone loss. Regular exercise can reduce the rate of bone loss.

Most bone fractures occur because of a fall. You can reduce your chances of falling by exercising to build your muscle strength and improve your balance. Exercise can also slow the rate of bone loss, which reduces the risk of fractures from osteoporosis.

Exercise also provides other benefits to people who have osteoporosis or wishing to prevent osteoporosis. These include reduced need for some medications that can contribute to the risk of falls, and better management of other health problems.

Leading Cause of Disability in Older Women

Osteoporosis is one of the leading causes of disability in older women. A bone-weakening disorder, osteoporosis often leads to hip and spinal fractures that can severely impair mobility and independence. How can you reduce the risk of these life-changing injuries? Exercise can help. Some types of exercises strengthen muscles and bones, while others are designed to improve balance, which can help prevent falls.

Benefits of Exercise for People With Osteoporosis

A sedentary lifestyle, poor posture, poor balance, and weak muscles increase the risk of fractures. A person with osteoporosis can improve their health by exercising in several ways, including:

  • Reduced Bone Loss 
  • Preservation Of Residual Bone Tissue 
  • Improved Fitness 
  • Improved Muscle Strength 
  • Improved Reaction Time 
  • Increased Mobility 
  • Improved Sense of Balance and Coordination 
  • Reduced Risk Bone Fractures Caused by Falls 
  • Reduced Pain 
  • Improved Mood and Vitality

Consult Your Doctor

Before starting a new exercise routine, consult your doctor and physiotherapist. They can tell you what is safe for your stage of osteoporosis, your level of fitness, and your overall health. There is no single exercise program that works for everyone with osteoporosis. The routine you choose should be unique to you and based on:

  • Muscle strength
  • Fracture risk
  • Fitness
  • Range of motion
  • Level of physical activity
  • Gait
  • Balance

They may refer you to a specially trained physical therapist who can teach you exercises that focus on body mechanics and posture, balance, resistance weights, and other techniques.

Choose the Correct Form of Exercise

These types of activities are often recommended for people with osteoporosis:

  • Muscle strengthening exercises, especially upper back 
  • Weight-bearing aerobic activities 
  • Flexibility exercises 
  • Stability and balance exercises

Due to the varying degrees of osteoporosis and the risk of fractures, you may be discouraged from doing certain exercises. Ask your doctor or physical therapist if you’re at risk for osteoporosis-related problems and find out which exercises are right for you.

Exercises That Build Healthy Bones

While most types of exercise are good for you, not all types are good for healthy bones. For example, weightbearing exercises can build healthy bone. These exercises involve challenging your muscle strength against gravity and putting pressure on your bones. As a result, your bones will signal your body to produce added tissue to build stronger bones.

Exercises such as walking, or swimming may be beneficial to your lung and heart health but won’t necessarily help you strengthen your bones. Anyone who has osteoporosis that tries to increase their bone strength can benefit from the next eight years.

1) Calpestio

The goal of exercise to reduce osteoporosis is to challenge the key areas of your body that osteoporosis most often affects, such as the hips. One way to challenge the hip bones is through the feet. 

  • In a standing position, he stamps his foot, imagining that he is clutching an imaginary tin can underneath. 
  • Repeat four times on one foot, then repeat on the other foot. 
  • Hold on to a railing or sturdy piece of furniture if you have trouble keeping your balance.

2) Bicep Curl

  • You can do bicep curls with dumbbells weighing between 1 and 5 pounds or with a resistance band. 
  • They can be performed seated or standing, depending on what suits you best. 
  • Take a dumbbell in each hand. Or walk on a resistance band holding one end in each hand. 
  • Pull the bands or weights toward the chest, watching the biceps muscles in the front of the arms contract. 
  • Lower the arms to return to the starting position. 
  • Repeat eight to 12 times. Rest and repeat for a second set if possible.

3) Shoulder Lifts

  • You’ll also need weights or a resistance band to perform shoulder lifts. 
  • You can do this exercise from either a standing or seated position.
  • Take a dumbbell in each hand. Or step on a resistance band while holding an end in each hand.
  • Start with your arms down and hands at your sides.
  • Slowly raise your arms out straight in front of you, but don’t lock your elbow.
  • Lift to a comfortable height, but no higher than shoulder level.
  • Repeat eight to 12 times. Rest and repeat for a second set, if possible.

4) Hamstring Curls

  • Hamstring curls strengthen the back muscles of the thighs. Perform this exercise while standing. If necessary, place your hands on a heavy piece of furniture or another solid object to improve balance. 
  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  • Step your left foot back slightly until only the toes touch the ground. Contract the muscles at the back of the left leg to raise the left heel towards the buttocks. 
  • Slowly check your left foot as you bring it back to the starting position. 
  • Repeat the exercise 8 to 12 times. 
  • Rest and repeat the exercise on the right leg.

5) Hip Leg Raise

  • This exercise strengthens the muscles around the hips and improves balance. Place your hands on heavy furniture or other solid objects to improve balance as needed. 
  • Begin with your feet hip-width apart. Shift your weight to your left foot. 
  • Flex your right foot and keep your right leg straight as you lift it out to the side, no more than 6 inches off the floor. 
  • Lower your right leg. 
  • Repeat the leg lift eight to 12 times. Return to the starting position and do another set using your left leg.

6) Squats

  • Squats can strengthen the front of your legs as well as your buttocks. You don’t have to squat deeply for this exercise to be effective.
  • Start with your feet hip-width apart. Rest your hands lightly on a sturdy piece of furniture or counter for balance.
  • Bend at your knees to slowly squat down. Keep your back straight and lean slightly forward, feeling your legs working.
  • Squat only until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
  • Tighten your buttocks to return to a standing position.
  • Repeat this exercise eight to 12 times.

7) Ball Sit

  • This exercise can promote balance and strengthen abdominal muscles. It must be performed with a large gym ball. You should also have someone with you who acts as a spotter to help you keep your balance. 
  • Sit on the exercise ball with your feet flat on the floor. 
  • Keep your back as straight as possible while maintaining your balance. 
  • If you can, keep your arms at your sides, palms facing forward. 
  • Hold for one minute if possible. Get up and rest. Repeat the exercise up to two times.

8) Standing on One Leg

This exercise promotes greater balance.

  • With a sturdy piece of furniture nearby if you need to grab onto something, stand on one foot for one minute, if possible.
  • Repeat the balance exercise on your other leg.

Swimming and Water Exercise for People With Osteoporosis

Swimming and water exercise such as water aerobics or hydrotherapy are not weight-bearing exercises because the thrust of the water counteracts the effects of gravity. However, exercising in water can improve cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength.

People with severe osteoporosis or kyphosis with arched upper backs at high risk of bone fractures may find swimming or exercising in water to be their favourite activity. Consult your doctor or health care professional.

Walking for People With Osteoporosis

Although walking is a weight-bearing exercise, it does not significantly improve bone health, muscle strength, fitness, or balance unless it is not practiced at high intensity as well as at a faster pace, for long periods of time such as bushwalking or incorporating difficult terrain such as hills. However, for people who are otherwise inactive, walking can be a safe way to introduce physical activity.

Exercises People With Osteoporosis Should Avoid

A person with osteoporosis has weak bones that tend to fracture. They should avoid activities that:

  • Involve Heavy Forward Bending of The Spine, Such as Sit-Ups 
  • Increase The Risk of Falling 
  • Require Sudden, Forceful Movements, Unless Introduced Gradually as Part Of a 
  • Progressive Program Require a Forceful Twisting Motion, like a Golf Swing, Unless The Person Is Used To Such Motions.

The Best Amount of Exercise for People With Osteoporosis

You need to continue your exercises over the long term to reduce your chances of a bone fracture.

Professional Advice for People With Osteoporosis

Regular exercise is an essential element of any osteoporosis treatment program. See your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Physiotherapists and other exercise professionals can give you expert guidance.

Always start your exercise program low and progress slowly. Exercising too vigorously and too quickly can increase the risk of injuries, including broken bones. Also talk to your doctor or dietitian about how to increase the amount of calcium, vitamin D, and other important nutrients in your diet. They may advise you to use supplements.

What Else Can You Do for Bone Health

Exercise can benefit almost anyone with osteoporosis. Do remember, this is only part of a good treatment plan. Get plenty of calcium and vitamin D in your diet, maintain a healthy weight, and don’t smoke or drink too much alcohol. You may also need osteoporosis medication to build or maintain bone density. Work with your doctor to find the best ways to stay healthy and strong. If your doctor feel that your exercising won’t provide the necessary results or that it is risky, then immediately stop doing those exercises.

When it concerns your body especially the ones that is related to your bone, your doctor knows the best. If you are unsure whether an activity or exercise is safe for your bones, ask your doctor or a physical therapist who knows about your osteoporosis.

A broken bone can be painful and disabling. Adopting an attitude of safety is first important to staying active with osteoporosis. Additionally, if you are planning to hit the gym and do exercises there, it is important that you do a bit of the research regarding the exercises that can be done. Plus, you can inform your gym coach regarding the bone osteoporosis that you are suffering from.

Hence, based on your condition, they would plan a great exercising method or regime that would make you healthier and even keep you fit. Some people tend to avoid telling their gym coach for the fear that they won’t allow them to do any kind of exercise.

Of course, you can do dieting where you eat foods that are nutritious and in required amount. Exercising is the fastest way to be healthy and avoid bone issues and make your bone strong. Hence, go ahead and try these exercises and see for yourself.


Saravavan Nadarajan (Vanan)

Vanan, fitness expert and leader at EzFit Singapore, specializes in holistic training—home-based, boot camps, and corporate fitness—with over a decade of industry experience.

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