Osteoporosis and Exercise
Osteoporosis can be defined as a disease that is characterized by an acute reduction in bone mass and a deterioration of the bone tissue thereby making the bones more susceptible to fractures. The bones of people suffering from osteoporosis tend to become fragile. This results in fractures in their hips, spine, wrists, and shoulders. Bone loss in osteoporosis occurs without any symptoms and it is therefore often referred to as the silent thief.
Exercise Benefits in Osteoporosis
A well-balanced, calcium-rich diet and regular exercises throughout one’s life go a long way in reducing the risk of osteoporosis in later life. Bones are living tissues in our bodies which grow stronger when they are subjected to an increase in load and resistance forces. Therefore, exercises tend to increase the bone strength. People suffering from osteoporosis should exercise regularly to:
- Increase Muscle Strength: Strength training can help build muscle strength by improving muscle mass.
- To Protect the Spine: One of the primary reasons for spine fractures is excess load which your vertebrae cannot withstand. By doing exercises that focus on the muscles which extend to your back, you do not only strengthen your muscles, but also improve your posture and reduce the risk of spine fracture.
- To Prevent Falls: People who are suffering from osteoporosis must exercise regularly as it helps to improve balance and coordination. This, in turn, prevents them from falling and reduces the risk of fractures.
- To Lower the Rate of Bone Loss: Exercises, which aim to increase muscle strength, in combination with weight bearing aerobic exercises, can help in lowering the rate of bone loss in later life.
Types of Exercises for People Suffering From Osteoporosis
People suffering from osteoporosis must exercise regularly to improve their balance and posture and increase their muscle strength. Exercising can also help in maintaining their bone mass. The following types of exercises are recommended for people who have osteoporosis:
- Strength Training: As part of strength training, dumb-bells, exercise bands, and weight machines are used for building muscular strength by engaging the bones and muscles in lifting, pushing, or pulling. These exercises involve movements against resistance and are known to increase bone density and reduce the risk of fractures. Resistance exercises should be performed twice or thrice a week. People can make these exercises more challenging by adding weights or by increasing the repetitions.
- Posture Training: The main focus of posture exercises is to understand the alignment of our body parts with one another. People who have osteoporosis often experience problems regarding the alignment of the vertebrae of their spine. Though a slight curvature of the upper back might be normal, weak extensor muscles or a fracture might cause the spine to curve more than normal. Exercises that are specifically targeted to strengthen back extensor muscles can help in improving the alignment of the spine.
- Balance Training: Training exercises that are aimed at challenging your balance are known as balance training exercises. Typical examples of balance training exercises are standing on one leg, walking on your toes, walking in an unusual pattern, and shifting weights to the extreme limits of support. Other forms of balance training exercises include dancing, and Tai Chi.
- Weight-Bearing Exercises: Exercises wherein your feet and legs support your body’s weight are known as weight-bearing exercise. Some examples of weight-bearing exercises include walking, dancing, hiking, and stair climbing.
- “Osteoporosis and exercise,” by J A Todd, et al. Published in Volume 79, Issue 932 of the Postgraduate Medical Journal, accessed on 29 March 2015. Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/pmj.79.932.320