Staying active can strengthen bones and preserve mobility.
If your doctor has recently diagnosed you with osteoporosis, or if you've already had a fracture, you might be avoiding exercise for fear of breaking another bone. Yet staying active is exactly what you should be doing right now.
If you've already had one fracture, the risk of an additional fracture is very high, so you have to do everything possible to lessen the likelihood that will happen. You need to try to increase bone density and prevent falls, and that's where exercise is so important.
Exercise reduces your risk not only of falling, but also of fracturing a bone if you do fall. An analysis published in BMJ found that programs of balance, strength, and resistance training reduced the odds of falls resulting in fractures by more than 60%.
An exercise program for osteoporosis should include four components:
- Weight-bearing exercises force your body to work against gravity, which helps to strengthen bones. Examples include walking, climbing stairs, playing tennis, and dancing. Higher-impact activities strengthen bone more than lower-impact exercises, but only do what your fitness level allows.
- Muscle-strengthening exercises use weights or your body's own resistance to work against gravity. Examples include lifting free weights, using a weight machine, working with resistance bands, and lifting your own body weight. Do these types of exercises at least twice a week.
- Balance exercises improve your ability to hold yourself upright and help prevent falls. Examples include tai chi and yoga. Perform balance exercises at least twice a week.
- Flexibility exercises keep your muscles limber and joints mobile. They include yoga and stretching. Try to stretch for at least five to 10 minutes after every workout. Hold each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds.
Mix up your routine. Incorporate a variety of exercises to work different parts of your body and prevent boredom.
When you're just starting out, it can help to work with a physical therapist or certified personal trainer so you don't injure yourself. He or she can the exercises and explain how to do them safely.
Always start slowly, with light weights and few repetitions, and build up from there. Don't worry if you can do only two or three biceps curls or leg lifts at first. Add one more repetition per week, until you can eventually do a full set of eight to 12 reps.
Be gentle and mindful of your condition. If you've already broken bones in the spine, avoid activities in which you bend forward, reach down, twist, or lift heavy weights. Ask your doctor if you need to be aware of any other physical limitations based on your bone strength and general health.
Osteoporosis care program
Remember that exercise is an important part of osteoporosis care, but it is just one component of that care. Additionally you need to be certain you get enough dietary calcium, take a vitamin D supplement and practice fall prevention. Likely your doctor will also prescribe drug therapy to build bone density. Ask your doctor how all of these elements should work together as part of a comprehensive bone-preserving strategy.
These exercises strengthen the muscles needed to keep you upright
and improve balance. Aim for eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise.
Hip extension: While holding onto the back of a chair for balance, slowly raise your right leg straight out behind you. Lift it as high as you can without bending your knee. Lower the leg. Repeat with the left leg.
Bridge: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Put your hands next to your hips with the palms down on the floor. Keeping your back straight, lift your buttocks as high as you can off the mat. Pause. Lower back down slowly.
Chair stand: Position the chair against a wall. Sit in the chair with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Cross your arms and put your hands on your shoulders. Keeping your back and shoulders straight, stand up slowly, using your legs rather than your hands. Slowly sit back down.