How To Exercise Safely With Bone Loss
By: Anna Camille Moreno, DO NCMP • Posted on May 01, 2018
Up until about age 30, you build more bone than you lose. That reverses after age 35, when bone breakdown outpaces bone buildup, resulting in a gradual loss of bone mass. In a person with osteoporosis, the loss is quicker. The bone’s spongy center begins to have more and larger “holes,” making the bone weaker and more likely to break.
Just like other parts of your body, bones get stronger with exercise. It’s important to stay active and exercise to improve bone health, strengthen muscles and reduce your risk of falls and fractures with bone-safe movements! Below are some tips to get you started!
2 Exercises For Women With Osteoporosis
There are two types of osteoporosis exercises. Please be sure to make adaptations to your exercises if needed because consistent, safe exercises help.
1. Weight-Bearing Exercises - aka “cardio,” usually means aerobic or cardiovascular exercise done on your feet where you’re bearing your own body weight on your feet.
- High-Impact: Helps build bones, but can increase risk of fractures with fragile bones or those who have had fractures. Check with your healthcare provider to discuss how much impact is safe for you.
- Low-Impact: safe alternative if you cannot do high-impact exercises.
2. Muscle Strengthening Exercises - aka “strength-training, resistance training or weight-lifting,” usually means working against some sort of resistance or “load” using your body weight, dumbbells, ankle weights, or resistance bands.
The minimum daily exercise required is 30 minutes, 5 days a week, and strength training twice a week.
11 Tips to Help Reduce your Risk of Fractures While Exercising and Keeping Muscle Memory
1. Don’t round your spine
- Avoid “toe touch” position or bending at the waist and upper back.
- Don’t bend and twist when picking things up because this puts too much forward and sideways pressure on your spine.
- Move with a neutral spine. This is your upright, elongated and best posture.
2. Avoid the following moves
- abdominal crunches
- toe touches
- shoulder stands
- deep twists to the point of strain
- very deep side bends
3. Follow these safer moves
- Instead of doing the “ab crunch,” do the “bicycle.” It is most effective when done slowly.
- Do the plank and keep your back flat.
- Practice the “hip hinge.” This is like a “partial squat,” which is an excellent muscle strengthening exercise.
4. Check your posture daily and think of lengthening your spine
- Stand against a wall and touch the back of your head, shoulder blades, and buttocks against the wall.
- Stand as tall as possible, but don’t strain to touch the back of your head.
- Keep your chin level and slide it back.
5. Do weight-bearing exercise
- Weight-bearing cardio: brisk walking, low-impact aerobics, stair step, elliptical trainer, low-impact dancing
- High-impact exercises: jogging and running, hiking downhill, high-impact dance or aerobics, team sports, racquet sports, stairs (descending part), impact-vertical jumping, jumping jacks, stomps
Non-weight bearing cardio
- Swimming and cycling are heart-healthy, easy on the joints, but are not particularly beneficial for bones. Don’t round your back with the freestyle or crawl stroke, breaststroke and backstroke are safer.
- Cycling is not weight-bearing, unless you’re standing on the pedals.
6. Do muscle strengthening, walking is not enough. The stronger your muscles, the harder their pull on your bones
- A referral to physical therapy specialized in osteoporosis may be necessary.
- Start light and gradually increase the resistance so you won’t increase your risk of injury.
- Start easy, work up to a moderately, challenging level by the last few repetitions of an exercise. Start with small weights or light resistance bands or even none at all while you’re learning the correct form, then increase to a heavier weight.
- Arthritis in hands? Use wrist weights instead of dumbbells
- Squats bother your knees? Do weighted leg lifts
- No weights? Use resistance bands or your own body weight
8. Stand up, often!
Sitting is a health risk:
- Stand up every 20 minutes, step in place for a minute, or stand on one foot for balance training
- Get up once an hour for 5 minutes
- Take every opportunity to move
9. Choose other systems of exercise
- Tai Chi, Pilates, yoga
- National Osteoporosis Foundation's free webinar: Safe Pilates and Yoga for Bone Health
10. Set yourself up for success with lifestyle strategies!
- Make it social, commit and connect
- Join a class, exercise with a friend
- Schedule exercise
- Be accountable: keep an exercise log to see your progress
- Remember how you feel after exercise
- Make exercise a lifestyle habit
- Be consistent
11. Live a long, good life!
5 traits common in healthy centenarians:
- Physically active and work to stay mobile
- Sense of optimism
- Engagement in their lives: sense of purpose
- Ability to adapt to loss and stay cheerful
- Sense of humor
Be Strong, Be Healthy, Be in Charge!
Anna Camille Moreno, DO NCMP
Dr. Moreno is an assistant professor and medical director of the Midlife Women's Health program at University of Utah OBGYN. Her focused training includes midlife care involving perimenopause, menopause, hormone therapy, bone health (osteoporosis management and treatment), sexual dysfunction, vulvar disorders, and genital chronic graft versus host disease. She is also a medical consultant and a freelance medical writer for GoodRx, Inc. Dr. Moreno is a graduate of the Specialized Women's Health Fellowship Program at Cleveland Clinic.
- Osteoporosis Treatment Guide
- Maintaining Healthy Bones and Staying Fit for Life
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- The Best Exercises For Women