Bones are living tissue and, because of this, the body is constantly absorbing and replacing minerals from bones. When the body begins to absorb minerals faster than it can replace them, bone density decreases. This decrease in bone density can lead to osteoporosis, which literally means “porous bone.” Osteoporosis causes bones to become brittle, which means that there is a greatly increased risk of broken bones, especially hips. Exercises for osteoporosis can help you reduce your risk factors for developing this condition. Here’s what you should know.
What is osteoporosis?
It’s estimated that 40 million people in the United States either have osteoporosis already or are at high risk of developing it. According to an article published in the McGill Journal of Medicine, as many as 250,000 hip fractures are attributed to osteoporosis each year in the United States.
Osteoporosis is a bone disease generally occurring in women after menopause that causes bones to become less dense, more porous, and more prone to fracture. There are some chronic conditions that can worsen osteoporosis or make it more likely to occur, such as autoimmune and gastrointestinal disorders, but there are ways to prevent the chances of osteoporosis as well as exercises to help prevent bone fractures.
There are often no symptoms associated with early osteoporosis, and later symptoms like loss of height or a stooped posture can be subtle enough to ignore. Because of this, many people don’t realize they have osteoporosis until a bump, strain, or fall causes a broken bone. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of the risk factors for osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis risk factors
The major risk factors for osteoporosis include:
- Gender: Women are much more likely to develop osteoporosis
- Age: Women over 50 and men over 70 are at higher risk
- Ethnicity: Osteoporosis is more common among Caucasian and Asian women
- Family history: Osteoporosis often runs in families
- Frame size: People with smaller frame sizes are at a higher risk, because they have less bone mass to begin with
If you have multiple risk factors, it’s important to begin doing exercises for osteoporosis from an early age. The most effective way to prevent osteoporosis is to maintain a healthy lifestyle during the first two decades of life by eating a nutrient-rich diet and performing exercises for osteoporosis regularly. However, it’s never too late to make lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. For example, avoid tobacco use and excessive alcohol, since both can both weaken bones and lead to osteoporosis.
Early diagnosis is also crucial for treatment. If a patient has multiple risk factors, his or her doctor might suggest a bone density test, also called a bone scan.
Even if the patient is not diagnosed with osteoporosis as a result of the bone scan, it’s possible the test might show a lowered bone density, which means a higher risk for osteoporosis later on. Knowing that a patient is at risk for osteoporosis can allow his or her physician to suggest therapies or medications to slow or stop the onset of osteoporosis.
What are the best exercises for osteoporosis?
There are three main types of exercise that are important for preventing osteoporosis or managing its symptoms:
- Weight-bearing exercises
- Exercises that improve balance
- Muscle strengthening exercises
Weight-bearing exercise works the body against the force of gravity and can be either high- or low-impact.
High-impact weight-bearing exercise includes:
- Jumping rope
- Other exercises that put high stress and pressure on bones
If you have an increased risk of broken bones or have advanced osteoporosis that makes the likelihood of a fracture high, you should avoid high-impact weight-bearing exercise. High-impact exercise, however, can be great for prevention of osteoporosis and helping to maintain bone strength and density.
Low-impact exercise, on the other hand, can be beneficial for osteoporosis sufferers who have already experienced a fracture or are at high risk. Exercises such as walking on a treadmill or elliptical machine, doing low-impact aerobic exercises, or using a stair step machine offer cardiovascular benefits as well as excellent weight-bearing exercise.
Balancing exercises are essential for people with osteoporosis to help them avoid falls. If your bones are at risk for fracture, the last thing you want to do is fall.
Balance exercise like Tai Chi and yoga help strengthen muscles while they work on developing stronger balance. Balance exercise can be incorporated into everyday activities, such as standing up and sitting down (hover just above the chair for a moment, or try to rise without using your hands), as well as in a formal exercise program.
Some of these balancing routines also incorporate light weight-bearing exercises for a two-fold benefit. The following video gives you a quick routine you can do to help with your balance.
Muscle strengthening exercises
Finally, one of the most important exercises for osteoporosis is muscle strengthening. We dedicate more space to this component, because it can make a difference in future prevention and management. The older you get, the faster your muscles atrophy. Muscle mass declines with age starting in the 40s. This is called sarcopenia, or age-related muscle loss. The unused muscles of elderly people do not respond as well to sudden or intense bouts of exercise. The key to avoiding muscle atrophy is to challenge your muscles with intense exercise on a regular basis throughout your life.
This is important for osteoporosis prevention because strong muscles wrap around the bones and help support the body. You needn’t lift your body weight above your head to get muscle strengthening benefits. Many exercises can incorporate elastic bands for resistance and your own body (e.g., lifting your own body weight up and down on your toes, or raising and lowering a leg while holding onto a chair).
Push-ups and planks are great exercises for upper body and core strength as well. You can do many muscle-strengthening exercises without special classes or equipment which makes them accessible to all.
How to get started with weight training for osteoporosis
Why should you try to increase your strength? The benefits of strength training or progressive resistance training have shown to help prevent muscle atrophy. There are many other benefits to being in great shape; the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. Additionally, a strong, lean body is easier on your organs and joints, reducing chronic pain.
How does the body increase in strength? By applying the SAID principle: Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. What this means is by progressively increasing the demand on your muscles, they will adapt. This can lead to increased muscle strength, size, and density.
To achieve these specific effects in one area of the body, that area must be loaded by performing exercises. For example, if you want stronger legs, you have to perform leg exercises that impose a demand on the targeted muscle, like squats or lunges. During progressive resistance exercise, the loaded muscles start to tear. The slight tearing of the muscle prompts the body’s natural recovery and repairs itself to a higher level of function and size. Begin a push-up and sit-up routine and challenge yourself to do a few more each week. Your stomach and arm muscles will respond with increased strength.
Where to start? The key is to take action. You will be amazed at how much better you will feel. Starting a program 20 minutes twice a week will yield significant results regardless of your current strength level or age. You can start first with the routine in the following video.
If you’re already suffering from osteoporosis, this video gives safe exercises to do to prevent injury and pain.
Cautions for osteoporosis exercises
It is important to remember your safety first, in all things. If you have previous injury to an area or have other health related issues, consult with your doctor to determine what is safe and best for you.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation also has some great resources to start with. Exercises that strengthen the muscles will also strengthen the bones, which can prevent or slow the onset of osteoporosis.
If you’ve been diagnosed with lowered bone density or osteoporosis, high-impact exercises could cause bone fractures. Therefore, low-impact exercises such as using an elliptical or stair-step machine, practicing gentle aerobics, or walking can be beneficial for patients with osteoporosis.
Other ways to prevent and manage osteoporosis
There are ways to prevent and manage this condition beyond exercises for osteoporosis. Here’s what you can do.
Eat a healthy diet
Try to get around 1,000 mg of calcium every day. Women over 50 and men over 70 should get about 1,200 mg. When the body doesn’t have enough calcium to function, it takes calcium from the bones, leading to decreased bone density and osteoporosis. The National Institutes of Health provide a table of recommended calcium intake for different populations.
The body also needs vitamin D because it aids in the absorption of calcium. Vitamin D from the sun can be absorbed through the skin, or it can be obtained through diet. Foods like egg yolks, liver, saltwater fish, and fortified dairy products are rich in vitamin D. If needed, there are also supplements available that provide both calcium and vitamin D.
Another simple but very important way of preventing broken bones if you already suffer from osteoporosis is to avoid falling.
The people most at risk for osteoporosis are seniors and the elderly, and this population is also, unfortunately, more likely to have impaired balance, sight, and strength, which can lead to falls. Simple preventative measures like moving electrical cords, having proper lighting, and putting salt on ice in the winter can prevent falls.
The biggest reason to avoid falls is the effects that a broken hip can have on your quality of life. In some cases, these traumatic injuries can even lead to death.
Because the hip is so necessary to movement, a broken hip can interfere with the ability to take part in everyday activities. Many seniors who break a hip are unable to care for themselves afterwards and must turn to long-term nursing care. Additionally, as many as 20% of seniors who break a hip will die within a year, either because of conditions related to the broken bone or the surgery to repair the broken bone.
For a successful recovery, it’s important to regain mobility and resume normal day to day activities as soon as possible. To assist in this, there are various pain-management techniques that can alleviate discomfort or pain.
If you’re already suffering from osteoporosis pain, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) are effective for reducing inflammation, thereby lessening discomfort.
Alternatively, your physician may recommend a spinal nerve block injection. This injection is a pain medication, like lidocaine or mepivacaine, that a doctor delivers directly into your spinal nerve. A similar procedure called a hip joint injection is the insertion of anesthetics directly into the hip joint. Both a spinal nerve block and a hip joint injection might also contain corticosteroids to reduce inflammation.
Another type of pain management therapy involves electric currents. Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS) is the placement of small pads or a cap on the affected area. Electrical impulses are delivered that block pain signals along the nerves. TENS has received support as an effective pain management treatment, that is also very low-risk.
Get started with exercises for osteoporosis
Because stronger muscles provide better protection from broken bones and can prevent osteoporosis in the future, it’s important for patients to talk to their physicians about preventative and pain management techniques, as well as strengthening exercises that are appropriate for them.
You can find a pain doctor in your area by clicking the button below or looking for one in your area by using the tips here: https://paindoctor.com/pain-management-doctors/.