Exercising to Prevent Osteoporosis

Did you know that osteoporosis and osteopenia (low bone mass) affects more than 50 million Americans and causes bones to become weak and brittle? For older women, it is a major cause of disability. So, if you are concerned about your bone health and tested low on the bone density scan (Dexa scan), read on to find out what types of exercise you need to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis and minimize the negative effects.

A complete exercise program consists of the following:

  • Strength/resistance training
  • Weight-bearing aerobic activities
  • Stretching and flexibility exercises
  • Stability and balance exercises

Strength/resistance training

Strength training involves the use of free weights, machines, resistance bands or even your own body weight to generate muscle tension on the bones and strengthen all the major muscle groups. You only need to do these exercises about 2-3 times a week (not daily) to get the benefits. Remember that proper form and technique are important to prevent injury so if you are new to strength training, you may want to consult with a trainer to help get you started. You don’t need a lot of heavy weights either – when not at the gym, I use the 5-15 pound dumbbells or resistance bands at home to get a great workout.

Here are some to try at home:

I like this 20-minute full body workout because it has no repeats – if you are not a fan of weight training like me, this one is for you:

If you have resistance bands, try this 30 minute full body workout:

Here’s one that requires no equipment so very travel friendly:

Weight-bearing aerobic activities

Weight-bearing exercises like walking, running, climbing, and dancing are activities where the weight of your body is working against gravity. These exercises work directly on the bones of your legs, hips and lower spine to slow mineral loss. They also boost circulation and heart health. These exercises should be done 5-7 days a week for at least 30 minutes daily. They also provide cardiovascular benefits, which boost heart and circulatory system health. Aerobics like swimming and biking offer many benefits but they don’t offer the weight-bearing load to strengthen bones. So, if you are a swimmer and biker, make sure to include other aerobic activities to mix it up.

Stretching and flexibility exercises

Stretching and postural exercises help move your joints through their full range of motion and decrease harmful stress on the back. These exercises can be performed throughout the day to reinforce good posture and should be done gently and without bouncing.

Here are some exercises to incorporate:

(to improve posture and balance)

Stability and balance exercises

Stability and balance exercises help reduce the risk of falling and these should be performed daily. Did you know that more than one in four people over the age of 65 fall each year? Balanced movement exercises like tai chi or standing on one leg improve core strength and equilibrium.  Here are some easy options to try:

A 10 minute tai chi with relaxing music to try:

How about a Qi Gong morning routine? Qi Gong is a mind-body-spirit practice that integrates posture, movement, breathing and focused intent:

A word of caution – If you already have osteoporosis, you should talk with your doctor about what exercises are best for you. You should avoid high-impact exercises like running and jumping which can lead to fractures in weakened bones. Also, jerky movements and excess bending and twisting (like golf, tennis, bowling, some yoga poses) can lead to compression fractures so when in doubt, be the turtle, not the hare.

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