Osteoporosis and exercising - A paradox

  • By Dr. T Deepa Porkodi

Exercises for osteoporosis are not fixed. You have to choose an activity most suited to you and that you enjoy doing.

Exercising is a delicate issue in women with osteoporosis. This disease renders the bones extremely fragile, so slightest slips and falls can cause serious bone fractures. To avoid such mishaps, it is important to strengthen the bones, which is achieved by exercising. Though this seems like a paradox, appropriate exercises done under expert guidance help in improving the bone strength and reducing fractures.

Benefits of Exercising:

  1. Increases muscle strength.
  2. Improves balance.
  3. Relieves pain.
  4. Improves your capacity for daily work, reducing the ‘disabled’ feeling.
  5. Improves general sense of well-being.

Note: Consult your doctor and check for your bone density before you start any exercise programme. Exercises for osteoporosis are not fixed. You have to choose an activity most suited to you and that you enjoy doing.

Exercises for osteoporosis:

  1. Strength training exercises: These exercises are suited for strengthening the upper back. It involves the use of free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, or water exercises to strengthen the muscles of your arms and spine. Strength training also directly works on your bones and slows mineral loss. By gentle stretching the muscles of the upper back are strengthened, improving your posture and reducing the risk of osteoporosis related compression fractures.
  2. Weight bearing aerobic activities: Walking, low impact aerobics, climbing up stairs, gardening, ellipticals are all examples of weight bearing exercises. These exercises use your legs to support your body weight, strengthening them in the process.
  3. Flexibility exercises: Flexibility exercises are important to keep your joints and muscles active and maintain their full range of motion. These exercises help in maintaining good balance and preventing muscle injury. Take care to always warm up before doing any stretch exercises. Also avoid any exercise that requires you to bend your spine backwards.
  4. Stability and balance exercises: The biggest danger for people with osteoporosis is falling. A small slip or fall could result in serious hip fractures. Hence it is important to include stability exercises in your program. These exercises help your muscles work together in a coordinated fashion thereby reducing the risk of falls and injuries.
  5. Yoga: Yoga is a very good option for women with osteoporosis. Several of the poses help in overall development of the joints and muscles. However, yoga has to be practiced under careful and well trained professionals as there are a lot of poses involved like the bridge pose, triangle pose and tree pose. These poses involve a lot of twisting and bending of the body, the spine in particular, which can be more harmful than good if done without proper guidance.

What to avoid:

  1. High impact exercises like jumping, running and jogging.
  2. Bending and twisting, like playing golf, tennis or squash and certain yoga poses.