If you have been diagnosed or want to prevent osteoporosis, learning a safe way to exercise is very important. Prevention is the key which will help to improve changes in posture, restore loss of body height, increase muscle strength and improve balance to reduce the risk of falls. Osteoporosis is a reduction of both the quantity and quality of bone and can predispose an individual to increased fracture risk.
It is important to address some basic concerns for types of exercise that are not safe. First and foremost, any exercise that emphasizes trunk bending is contraindicated, side-bending and trunk twisting should be done with caution. When working out in the gym or independently, avoid any exercise that involves the above trunk movement especially exercises that combines these movements. It is important to avoid knee to chest exercise, toe touches, straight leg raise or raising both legs together. Use caution when working out in the gym on any seated exercises using machines. The rule of thumb is to avoid machines that cause increased compression on the spine or bend the spine.
Exercises that are safe to do:
1. Walking is an excellent exercise because it promotes weight bearing through the hip joints. It surprises the bones with different forces. You can also walk backwards, sidestep; walk on uneven surfaces (for example, grassy surfaces or a hike in the woods) and inclines. The treadmill is also a good source of exercise. It is important to emphasize posture when walking both on and off the treadmill. When on the treadmill, let go of the arms to normalize the walking pattern on the treadmill. You can also use hiking poles on your walk. They help promote a more erect posture and provide a weight bearing experience for your arms.
2. Yoga/Pilates are another popular form of exercise, but should be modified for a safe practice. Flexion or bending type exercises should be discontinued but there are substitute exercises that can be done in class. Classes should emphasize body alignment with emphasis on the position of the back. Another important factor is good body mechanics when transitioning to different postures. It is important to find an instructor who is knowledgeable about the risks of persons with osteoporosis.
3. It is important to warm up with stretching exercises prior to beginning weightlifting or weight training exercise.
Information used and/or adapted from the course
OSTEOPOROSIS: A Comprehensive Treatment Strategy with permission of Sara Meeks SEMINARS, P.O. Box 5577, Gainesville FLA