Osteoporosis: Exercise to Increase Bone Mass
Osteoporosis is a common condition impacting 55% of Americans over the age of fifty. Osteoporosis causes a loss of bone mass and strength, resulting in bones that are more brittle and prone to fracture. Throughout the lifetime, 50% of women and 25% of men will experience a fracture due to low bone density.
Good news! Lifestyle changes like exercise can help combat bone loss. Healthy bone can be maintained by engaging in weight-bearing and resistive exercise. These types of exercises apply stress to the bone, resulting in bone growth. Your bones, just like your muscles, will respond to strength training using free weights, resistance bands, or your own body weight. Proper form is important to exercise safely. Individuals with osteoporosis should be cautious with exercises that require forward bending and/or twisting of the spine. For this reason, exercises like sit-ups, toe touches, and deep spinal twists are generally not recommended.
For aerobic exercise, it is important to prioritize weight-bearing activities. Exercises like aerobics, hiking, dancing, and pickleball are all moderate to high impact activities that load your joints and have great cardiovascular benefits. If your osteoporosis is severe, lower impact activities such as walking, elliptical, gardening, or stair climbing may be safer choices. Consult your doctor about your workout routine to make sure your activity choices are well-matched to your bone health.
Exercises for posture and body mechanics are also important to help protect your spine and prevent injury. A neutral spine reduces strain and helps maintain a more stable center of gravity. Incorporating balance exercises into your weekly routine can reduce fall risk and subsequent fracture risk. Basic exercises like standing heel to toe and balancing on one foot are simple ways to challenge yourself on a daily basis- just make sure you have a sturdy countertop in front of you. Better yet, join a Tai Chi class for a mind-body challenge that incorporates dynamic movement, posture, and balance.
Physical activity is a modifiable risk factor in osteoporosis prevention in older adults.¹ Exercise programs that incorporate strength training, cardiovascular exercise, and balance practice have been shown to improve quality of life and reduce fear of falling in older adults with osteoporosis.² If you have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis, it is not too late to improve your bone health. Prioritize weight-bearing and resistive exercises. Consistently complete balance exercises to reduce fall risk. Lastly, be mindful of posture and body mechanics throughout your everyday activities.
As always, if you have any questions or would like more guidance, please reach out!
Jumpstart your routine by following along with this exercise video.
Pinheiro, M.B., Oliveira, J., Bauman, A. et al. Evidence on physical activity and osteoporosis prevention for people aged 65+ years: a systematic review to inform the WHO guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 17, 150 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-020-01040-4
Stanghelle, B et al. “Effects of a resistance and balance exercise programme on physical fitness, health-related quality of life and fear of falling in older women with osteoporosis and vertebral fracture: a randomized controlled trial.” Osteoporosis international : a journal established as result of cooperation between the European Foundation for Osteoporosis and the National Osteoporosis Foundation of the USA vol. 31,6 (2020): 1069-1078. doi:10.1007/s00198-019-05256-4