The Connection between Exercise and Osteoporosis

  • April 11th, 2008
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Exercise is an important factor in preventing and treating osteoporosis. After menopause, most women begin to lose bone density, which puts them at risk for fractures. Although the tendency toward osteoporosis is partly hereditary, it can, to a large extent, be prevented. The two most important factors in preventing osteoporosis are adequate calcium intake and weight-bearing exercise.

Weight-bearing exercise is any exercise that has you standing on your feet, allowing the bones and muscles in your legs, hips and back to bear your body weight. Walking, dancing and tennis are weight-bearing exercises. These exercises increase bone density and strength, providing a reserve of bone tissue for those post-menopausal years. Weight-bearing exercise is especially important for small, slender women. This is the one area where heavy women have an advantage—carrying their own weight is a weight-bearing exercise and helps prevent osteoporosis.

Other things you can do to prevent osteoporosis are:
• Don’t smoke.
• Limit your intake of alcoholic and carbonated beverages.

Post-menopausal Exercise
Exercise is even more important after menopause. Exercise will slow bone loss and can even increase bone density in some cases. Women who are at risk for osteoporosis should consult a physician before beginning an exercise program, as some exercises may not be indicated for them. Post-menopausal exercise should include aerobic exercise, strength training, stretching and balance training.

Aerobic Exercise for Osteoporosis
Aerobic exercise improves cardiovascular conditioning and overall health, and is an important part of any exercise routine. Weight-bearing exercise is best for older women because it slows bone loss. Low impact activities should be chosen to prevent injury.

Although swimming is an excellent aerobic activity, it is not a weight-bearing activity. Swimming may, however, be an excellent way to exercise while recovering from an injury.

Strength Training
Strength training is extremely important for post-menopausal women for several reasons. It slows bone loss and can even improve bone density in some instances. Strong muscles also protect joints and bones from injury and improve balance, decreasing the likelihood of an injury-causing fall.

Stretching
Stretching is important to maintain flexibility and protect joints. Regular stretching maintains proper joint position and can prevent compression fractures in the spine.

Balance Training
Balance training is exercises designed to challenge and improve your body’s balance. Balance exercises should be performed with caution and adequate protection to prevent injury from falls.

Exercises to Avoid
People with osteoporosis should avoid some activities because they increase the risk of injury. High impact activities, such as jumping and hopping put excessive stress on the bones and can lead to fractures if you have osteoporosis. Activities that involve bending forward or twisting of the spine should be avoided, too, as these movements can cause compression fractures in people with osteoporosis.

Exercise is one of the keys to managing osteoporosis and preventing disability from it. Developing a life-long habit of engaging in weight-bearing activity at a young age is a great way to prevent bone loss altogether.

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