Exercises For Osteoporosis: The Components Of An Effective Program

What are the best exercises for osteoporosis? Here are the major components of a bone-boosting fitness program...

Weight-Bearing Exercises impact your bones every time your feet touch the ground. Any exercise where your legs are supporting your body weight is a weight-bearing exercise. A few examples are walking, playing tennis, dancing and climbing stairs.

Postural Exercises help improve your body alignment and height as well as relieve pain. Women with osteoporosis often develop a stooped posture. The consequences? Neck, back and shoulder pain, poor body image and feeling older than you are.

Balance Exercises protect your bones by preventing you from falling. Poor balance isn't just a problem of the elderly. If you don't exercise regularly you begin to gradually lose your balance, even before the age of 50!

Strength Training just twice a week has been shown to dramatically decrease the risk of fracture in postmenopausal women. Your hips, spine and wrists are the most vulnerable to fractures, so be sure to include exercises that strengthen these areas in your repertoire of exercises for osteoporosis.

Relaxation Techniques may not be exercises for osteoporosis, but they can be very helpful in combating the anxiety, fear and depression that living with osteoporosis may cause. In addition learning breathing techniques can help offset the decrease in lung function that a stooped posture and protruding abdomen create. So while you might not consider these exercises for osteoporosis - they are.

Which Osteoporosis Exercises Should I Do To Help My Bones?

Good question.

For a start choose exercises for osteoporosis that you enjoy and that are the easiest to implement into your life. For your bones to reap significant benefits you need to exercise regularly. Doing it every now and then will get you nowhere.

If you are just starting out pick one form of weight-bearing exercise and make it a habit, then you can add a few more if you choose to.

Get help from your doctor and/or physical therapist in choosing the best exercises for osteoporosis for your condition.

Here are some ideas and considerations for weight-bearing exercises for osteoporosis...

Walking - Though it doesn't produce changes in bone strength as quickly as some of the higher impact exercises, walking is one of the best exercises for a lot of women because most of us are able to do it. It's convenient and one of the safest forms of exercise. Depending on the severity of your condition, you may not be ready or able to play tennis, run or do other high impact activities. If you are exercising for osteoporosis, walking is an excellent choice.

Because of the movement of the treadmill underneath your feet, the bone-building effect of walking on a treadmill is somewhat less than regular walking. If you have balance issues a treadmill may not be your best choice.

In short walking can help improve your bone density, posture and balance. Here is a free 7 day course to help you learn to move correctly and get more bone-strengthening effects from your walking program.

Pool Exercises - Moving in the water creates resistance on your muscles and bones. If you want to walk in the water use the same postural awareness tips as walking on land. Swimming can help increase flexibility and improve cardiovascular fitness. Add the back, breast and side stroke to your workout to maintain muscular balance and prevent rounded shoulders.

T'ai Chi - A study reported in Physician and Sports Medicine showed t'ai chi slowed bone loss in post menopausal women. They participated in it for 45 minutes 5 times per week to get these results. It's also a great way to improve your balance and coordination. Avoid bending your back forward during the moves, and look for a qualified instructor who has trained with a t'ai chi master.

Hiking - Usually involves climbing some hills. You need good cardiovascular fitness and balance for this. Provided you can do it safely it provides excellent bone-building benefits.

Stair Climbing - This is a good way to strengthen your hip bones. If your balance is good enough, take the opportunity to use the stairs instead of the elevator whenever you can. If you are out of shape, take it slowly at first as climbing stairs elevates your heart rate quickly. Keep your hand on the railing for safety.

Elliptical Machines - Though these are a form of weight-bearing exercise they don't place as much force through your skeleton as activities where your foot comes into contact with the ground.
Include them as part of your routine if you enjoy them, but you may want to choose another exercise as your primary one. Make sure your balance is good enough before trying these machines.

Dancing - Salsa, rumba, 2 step... all help you build bone health, balance and coordination in a fun way. They also require good balance, so check your balance first if you are unsure. Avoid dances that use high impact moves and forward bends.

Take a look at these guidelines for cardiovascular fitness and turn your weight-bearing exercise into an aerobic workout for heart health.

Remember your osteoporosis exercise program should include

Postural exercises for osteoporosis and osteopenia...

Postural exercises are not about forcing yourself to stand up straight. In fact an important part of a postural program is to learn positions that allow you postural muscles to relax and your spine to decompress. Bringing awareness to your movements is another postural correction technique. Have a physical therapist develop a
postural realignment program specifically for you. Another great resource is a book by Sara
Meeks P.T., G.C.S.

Walk Tall

Working on your balance...

Try these simple tests to see how your balance is doing. If you've already got good balance, stay active to maintain it. If not, learn some specific exercises and tips to decrease your risk of falling.

Getting stronger...

Numerous studies have shown that strength training builds bone. With osteoporosis and osteopenia there is no substitute for one-on-one instruction to learn to use proper form. Use good form -you'll build bone, use bad form - you'll suffer injury or fracture. It's that simple. Check with your physical therapist. Many physical therapy clinics now offer personal training as well. If not they may know of a trainer who is knowledgeable and can build a program of osteoporosis exercises for you. Not all trainers are aware of the risks associated with your condition. Be very careful in who you choose to work with.

Soothing Stress...

Learn to relieve stress through breathing. This gives you a well-rounded program of exercises for osteoporosis and osteopenia

Talking About Exercises For Osteoporosis, Are There Any I Shouldn't Do?

Now that's a great question.

With osteoporosis exercises and movements you shouldn't do are every bit as important as those you should do.

Be very cautious doing exercise classes on video, TV or in person.
They often contain movements that put you at increased risk of fracture.

Some exercises and movements to avoid...

  • Bending your trunk forward over your legs such as abdominal crunches, sit ups, touching your toes etc.
  • Bringing your knees up toward your chest.
  • Any exercise where your bend and twist your trunk at the same time.
  • Straight leg raises
  • Running - though running helps to preserve bone in women with normal bone density, if you have osteoporosis
    your bones may not be strong enough to take the high impact. Get a good aerobic workout with low impact
    activities instead.
  • Skating or Rollerblading - Both of these provide weight-bearing benefits to your bones. However the risk of
    falling is great, so they are not good choices for anyone with balance issues or osteoporosis.
  • Biking - The seated position is the one that creates the most compression on your back, so bike riding
    either in or outdoors is not recommended if you have osteoporosis.

Use caution with...

Racket Sports, Golf and Bowling - These activities present a great risk for back injury because of the bending and twisting movements involved. If they're already a part of your normal activity and you don't want to give them up, ask your physical therapist to review your body mechanics and give you suggestions to decrease your risk offracture.

Stair Climbing Machines -
Stair climbing machines replicate the upward portion of taking the stairs but not the downward portion, so the benefits to your bones are not quite as good. You need good balance to use a stair climbing machine. Always maintain good posture while on the machine, bending forward is a no-no if you have osteoporosis.

Yoga -
May help to increase bone density in the spine if you do it regularly and with good form. It offers many other benefits as well... improved posture, balance, flexibility and body awareness. However, yoga uses many forward bending postures which can be dangerous to anyone with osteoporosis. If you decide to do yoga, choose a certified yoga instructor, tell him or her about your condition and what movements you should avoid and ask if she/he will critique you while you do the poses. Seated postures put a lot more compression on your spine so use caution with these.

Thinking of doing any exercises for osteoporosis not mentioned here? Be sure to check with your doctor or physical therapist first.

Click here to return to Description Of Osteoporosis page from this Best Exercises For Osteoporosis page.


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