Does exercise make bones stronger?
It is well established that placing a mechanical stress on bones has a positive effect on their strength. Many studies have shown that people who are physically fit have higher bone mass density (BMD) and stronger bones than those who are inactive.
Can exercising early in life help prevent osteoporosis when a person is older?
Osteoporosis is preventable. Bone is a living tissue that is continually replaced. Sex, heredity, race, diet, exercise, and hormone levels all play a role in maintaining healthy bones throughout one’s life.
Can exercise help someone who already has osteoporosis?
Because of their weak bones, people with osteoporosis are at greater risk of being injured when they fall. Falls increase the risk of fracturing the hip, wrist, spine, and other parts of the body. This can have a negative impact on quality of life.
For example, one-quarter of those who have a hip fracture die within six months, and half will have serious restrictions to their ability to get around. Regular exercise can reduce the risk of falls by about 25% and the incidence of hip fractures by 50%.
For people with osteoporosis, the main goals of physical activity should be to prevent falls by improving general health, balance, muscle strength, posture, and postural stability.
What kind of exercises are best for someone with osteoporosis?
Check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program, especially if you have any conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure.
- In general, exercise should be weight-bearing if it is to provide any benefit to bone mass and strength. “Weight-bearing” means moving against gravity while remaining upright.
- Work with a physical therapist to develop a safe exercise plan.
- If you have broken a bone due to osteoporosis or are at risk of breaking a bone, if you are frail, or if you fall easily, you should avoid high-impact exercises.
- Start slowly. If you have fractures in the spine because of osteoporosis, try to avoid activities in which you have to reach down, bend forward, make rapid twisting motions, or do any heavy lifting or anything else that increases the chances of a fall.
High-impact weight-bearing exercises can help rebuild lost bone. These include:
- high-impact aerobics
- jumping rope
Low-impact weight-bearing exercises can help prevent further bone loss. These include:
- brisk walking
- elliptical training machines
- low-impact aerobics
- weight-lifting machines
- exercises that use your own body weight
- functional movements, such as standing and rising up on your toes
- Yoga and Pilates -- Consult a physical therapist before starting either of these activities. Positions that require bending forward could increase the chance of breaking a bone in the spine.
- T’ai chi -- Low-velocity movement and emphasis on posture helps reduce loads on the joints of the lower limbs, especially the knees and ankles. T’ai chi helps relax muscles and improve endurance, balance, flexibility, and coordination, thus reducing the likelihood of falls.
What are some guidelines for exercising if you have osteoporosis?
- Some form of weight-bearing exercise should be done for 30 minutes most days of the week. Exercise can be broken into several sessions over the course of a day, if it can’t be done all at once.
- If it’s not possible to exercise on a certain day, try to take the stairs or park farther away from your place of work or stores so that you’ll have farther to walk.
- Muscle-strengthening exercise should be done two to three times per week. Try to do one exercise for each major muscle group, including the back, shoulders, arms, chest, abdomen, hips, and legs. For each exercise, use a weight that is heavy enough to allow for only 8 to 10 repetitions. Rest 30 seconds between sets. If you already have osteoporosis or are frail, aim for 10 to 15 repetitions with lighter weights.
- If time for exercise is limited, do small amounts at a time or just one body area per day (for example, legs on Monday, arms on Tuesday, etc.).
- Balance, posture, and functional exercises can be done every day, depending on your situation. If you have fallen or lose your balance easily, focus on balance. If your shoulders are getting rounded, focus on posture. If you have trouble climbing stairs or getting up from the bed or a couch, do more functional exercises.
- Make sure that the exercise does not cause any pain.
- Cross-train by doing a variety of exercise. Don’t rely on a single activity for both cardiovascular (heart) health and osteoporosis prevention.
- Select activities you enjoy doing, as this will make it easier to stick with an exercise program.
What results can be expected from doing weight-bearing exercises for osteoporosis?
- Building greater bone density, or stopping further bone loss. The greatest effects will be seen on those bones that are stressed the most by a particular exercise; for example, in the hands for those who play tennis, the legs for runners, and the spinal column for rowers.
- Greater muscle strength and coordination, which helps prevent falls
- An overall sense of well-being
- A decrease in heart disease and risk of diabetes
- An improvement in depression
- Kai Ming Chan, Anderson M, Lau EMC: Exercise interventions: defusing the world’s osteoporosis time bomb. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. Vol. 81, No. 11 Genebra Nov. 2003. www.scielosp.org Accessed 8/8/2012.
- National Osteoporosis Foundation. About Osteoporosis: Exercise for Healthy Bones. www.nof.org Accessed 8/8/2012.
- Todd JA, Robinson RJ: Osteoporosis and Exercise. Postgrad Med J 2003;79:320-323. Available on National Institutes of Health website at: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov Accessed 8/8/2012.
- Wolman RL: Osteoporosis and Exercise. Br Med J 1994; 309: 400-403. Available on National Institutes of Health website at: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov Accessed 8/8/2012.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 8/20/2012…#15074