Exercise Management of Osteoporosis

Physical activity

Activity plays an important role in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. Most important for your bone health are Strength and Balance exercises. It is a good idea to see your family doctor or another health care professional to ensure you are safe to exercise. Benefits include:

  • Better balance to keep you from falling.
  • Stronger bones and muscles to reduce your risk of injury.
  • Straighter posture to reduce pain and stress on bones.
  • Less pain and more energy.
  • Social benefits (making new friends)

Strength Training

You become stronger by working your muscles until they get tired. Strong muscles help you keep good posture and improve your balance. This will help prevent fractures.

  • To build strength, work each large muscle group three times a week.
  • Use weights, elastic tubing, or create resistance in some other way. For example when you swim you move against the water which makes you work harder.
  • Good posture is important when lifting weights. Avoid twisting your back, slouching and lifting weights above your shoulders when you exercise.
  • Aim for 10 - 15 repetitions with light weights. If able, you can do a second set.

Balance Exercise

  • We fall more as we get older. Often this is because we don’t maintain our balance and reflexes-you have to use it or lose it!
  • Try this test. Stand on one foot next to a counter top. Can you do this while standing on one foot? How long before you lose your balance? If it was easy, try it with your eyes closed.
  • It is recommended that you work on this every day. After a few short weeks you will see a difference. Remember, if you prevent the fall, you prevent the fracture!
  • It is also a good idea to do a scan around your home periodically to ensure there are no safety hazards. For example, is the lighting outside good? Are stair rails in good repair? Are there rugs or cords that could be trip hazards?

Posture Training

  • Good posture protects your back from vertebral compression fractures and lessens muscle and joint pain. But, it can be hard work.
  • By making a consistent effort every day to maintain good posture in every position and during every activity, your back will be protected and it won’t feel as tired because it will be stronger.
  • Remember to keep your back straight, tummy in, shoulders back and chin in.
  • Use pillows for support when you sit or lie down.
  • A good exercise is to stand with your back against the wall and try to straighten yourself up. Now step away from the wall and try to maintain this position for 3-4 minutes.
  • You can become taller and make your waist thinner if you stand straighter!

Aerobic Exercise

Keeping your heart and lungs in good shape keeps you on your feet. If you can include some weight bearing exercise (walking or stair climbing) there will be some bone strengthening benefits too!

  • To increase your fitness, you must raise your heart rate for 20 minutes, at least three times a week. Ideally you would aim for 150 minutes per week.
  • Try the “talk test” (it is easier than taking your pulse). When you exercise, if you are too short of breath to talk, you are working too hard. If you can talk with ease - you aren’t working hard enough. Aim for a moderate intensity where your breathing is a bit harder and you can talk but still need to catch your breath every sentence or two.
  • There is some evidence that exercise done in weight bearing will increase bone density. Weight bearing is when your weight is taken through your bones. This strain triggers bone production. It can be worked into your aerobic exercise. Walking, for example, is an aerobic exercise that is also weight bearing on your leg bones and may help these bones to maintain or even increase their strength and density.
  • Other aerobic exercises are swimming and biking. They are good for your heart and lungs but won’t have the added benefits for your bones.

General Precautions

Anyone at high risk of fracture should be careful when moving and may need to avoid some activities. Talk to your doctor to determine your risk of fracture before beginning an exercise program. If you are high risk for fracture please consider:

  • Exercises should be painfree
  • No pelvic tilt - keep your back straight at all times
  • No bending - this puts stress on your back
  • No twisting - this puts stress on parts of the bone
  • No overhead lifting - this loads too much weight on the spine
  • Avoid high impact activities like jumping or bouncing if you have a high risk of fracture - ask your doctor.