Teresa Heitzmann, MSPT,
Exercise Tips for Osteoporosis
Updated: Feb 15, 2021
If you have osteoporosis, you might mistakenly think exercise will lead to fracture. In fact, though, using your muscles helps protect your bones.
Osteoporosis is a leading cause of hip and spine fractures in women over the age of 55. It is a major source of disability for both men and women, and can severely impair mobility and independence.
The good news is that there are MANY things we can do to reduce our risk of bone loss and fractures related to Osteoporosis. The key is to develop good habits NOW, and keep them going, forever!!
Benefits of exercise for Osteoporosis Prevention/Management
The benefits of exercise are endless. For adults at risk for Osteoporosis, regular exercise can be lifesaving!
Increased muscle strength
Decreased risk of bone fracture
Decreased pain and stiffness
Improved mood and energy for daily activities
Tips for starting an Exercise Program
Always consult your health care provider before starting any exercise program for osteoporosis, particularly if you have medical conditions or are new to exercise. Requesting a bone density scan and fitness assessment are recommended if you have not been exercising regularly.
Choose an exercise program that you will stick with. Like all routines, the benefits will not happen overnight. Only after these routines become a part of your regular weekly lifestyle, will you enjoy the full fruits of your efforts!
Find an exercise partner and choose a variety of fun and specific activities for Osteoporosis that you can do together, and motivate one another to keep exercising!
Strength training includes the use of free weights, resistance bands or your own body weight to strengthen all major muscle groups, especially spinal muscles important for posture. Strength training has also been proven to assist with maintaining bone density.
Using elastic exercise bands
Using weight machines
Lifting your own body weight
Core Strength training exercises
Yoga and Pilates can also improve strength, balance and flexibility. However, certain positions may not be safe for people with osteoporosis or those at increased risk of broken bones. For example, exercises that have you bend forward may increase the chance for spinal fracture due to Osteoporosis.
If you are using weight lifting equipment, be careful NOT to twist your spine during exercise, as this puts excessive stress on the spinal vertebrae.
Strength training should be adjusted to your exercise experience and tolerance, especially if you have pain. An experienced physical therapist or personal trainer can help you develop healthy and safe strength-training routines.
Proper form and technique are paramount in preventing injury and maximizing the benefits of your workouts.
Weight-bearing Aerobic Exercises
These exercises include activities that make you move against gravity while staying upright. Weight-bearing exercises can be high-impact or low-impact.
High-impact weight-bearing exercises help build bones and keep them strong. If you have broken a bone due to osteoporosis or are at risk of breaking a bone, you may need to avoid high-impact exercises. If you’re not sure, you should check with your healthcare provider.
Examples of high-impact weight-bearing exercises are:
Doing high-impact aerobics
Low-impact weight-bearing exercises can also help keep bones strong and are a safe alternative if you cannot do high-impact exercises. Examples of low-impact weight-bearing exercises are:
Using elliptical training machines
Doing low-impact aerobics
Using stair-step machines
Fast walking on a treadmill or outside
Swimming and cycling have many aerobic benefits, but they don't provide the weight-bearing load your bones need to support bone health. However, these are great exercises for overall fitness and cardiac health. In conjunction with your strength/weight bearing activities, they are a great compliment to your overall fitness routine
Moving your joints through their full range of motion helps you keep your muscles working well. Stretches are best performed after your muscles are warmed up — at the end of your exercise session, for example, or after a 10-minute warm-up. They should be done gently and slowly, without bouncing.
Avoid stretches that flex your spine or cause you to bend at the waist. Ask your physical therapist which stretching exercises are best for you.
Stability and Balance exercises
Fall prevention is especially important for people with osteoporosis. Stability and balance exercises help your muscles work together in a way that keeps you more stable and less likely to fall. Simple exercises such as standing on one leg or movement-based exercises such as Tai Chi can improve your stability and balance.
Movements to avoid
If you have osteoporosis, avoid the following types of exercises:
Some High-impact exercises. If you have already been diagnosed with Osteoporosis, and are at risk for fractures, high impact activities such as jumping, running or jogging can lead to fractures in weakened bones. Avoid jerky, rapid movements. Choose exercises with slow, controlled movements. Speak with your health care provider if you are concerned that you may be at risk for injury with high impact exercise.
Bending and twisting. Exercises in which you bend forward at the waist and twist your waist, such as touching your toes or doing sit-ups, can increase your risk of compression fractures in your spine if you have osteoporosis. Other activities that may require you to bend or twist forcefully at the waist are golf, tennis, bowling and some yoga poses. Consult with your physical therapist if you have concerns regarding your exercise choices that involve bending/twisting.
Tips for Daily Activities
Proper posture and safe body mechanics are essential for reducing stress on the spine.
Keep your core muscles strong to help prevent poor posture and its consequences.
Use proper posture for all of your daily activities.
Keep your back straight (do not twist) when doing household chores such as sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping, and when getting in and out of bed.
Bend at your hips and knees (not your back) when you brush your teeth, put things in the trunk and take them out, tie your shoes, and when you garden or lift things.
Exercise, combined with good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle is the most effective and safest way to reduce your risks associated with Osteoporosis!
For more information, and to learn more about Osteoporosis, please visit the National Osteoporosis Foundation at https://www.nof.org/