Osteoporosis is the most common bone disease found in humans and is often silent until it’s complicated by fractures that typically occur following minimal trauma. Osteoporosis is characterized by low bone mass, bone tissue deterioration, bone architecture disruption, decreased bone strength, and an increased risk of fracture. These fragility fractures represent approximately 80% of all fractures in menopausal women over the age of 50 years and result in increased mortality, morbidity, chronic pain, hospital admissions, and economic costs.
According to recommendations released by Osteoporosis Canada, individuals suffering from osteoporosis, and those who are at risk of developing it, can help to prevent loss of bone, falls, and fractures by performing specific types of exercises.
What Types of Exercise Should I Do?
In order to maintain and build bone strength you should incorporate weight-bearing aerobic exercise, strengthening exercises, and balance exercises into your exercise program.
Weight-bearing aerobic exercise is divided into high impact and low impact activities. High-impact activities help to build bone and maintain their strength. Examples of high-impact activities include: dancing, jogging/running, high-impact aerobics, jumping rope, climbing stairs, and tennis. However, it’s important to check with your Physical Therapist before performing these exercises if you have suffered a fragility fracture, or if you are at risk of fracture, as you may need to avoid high-impact exercises. Low-impact activities provide a safe alternative for individuals who cannot perform high-impact activities. Examples of low-impact activities include: elliptical training, stair-stepping machines, treadmill or outdoor walking, and low-impact aerobics.
Another important component of your exercise program should be strengthening exercises, known as resistance exercise. Examples of this type of exercise include: weight lifting, elastic band/tubing (Theraband) exercises, lifting your own body weight, and performing functional movements.
Lastly, balance and flexibility exercises may have an added benefit when combined with weight bearing aerobic and strength training exercises. Examples of balance and flexibility activities include: yoga and Pilates. However, it’s important to check with your Physical Therapist before engaging in these types of activities because certain positions may be unsafe for individuals at risk for fracture.
Why Is Exercise Important for Individuals with Osteoporosis?
Engaging in regular exercise can help individuals with osteoporosis in the following ways:
- Helps to increase muscle mass and strength
- Helps to improve balance and coordination, thereby helping to reduce the risk of falling
- Helps to protect the spine from fractures
- Helps to reduce the rate of bone loss
Furthermore, regular exercise has additional health benefits including: lower rates of heart disease, depression, cancer, dementia, diabetes and a host of other chronic conditions. Further, regular exercises helps to improve your overall physical fitness and strength, boost energy levels, increase stamina, and improve mental health.
If osteoporosis is preventing you from living a healthy lifestyle, you may benefit from Physical Therapy, which often entails movement re-education, soft tissue release, muscle balancing techniques as well as learning how to perform stretching and strength training exercises correctly. A Physical Therapist typically guides the sessions in order to monitor your progress and help to minimize the risk of falls and fracture.
Undergoing a comprehensive evaluation by a Physical Therapist at Physical Therapy Specialists is one of the best ways to gain an understanding of how you can enhance your physical state. After the assessment, our Physical Therapists will create a program that is specific to your needs, can help improve your recovery time, and provide you with optimal health benefits.
For more information, see our patient guide.
1. Cosman F, de Beur S, LeBoff M et al. Clinician’s Guide to Prevention and Treatment of Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis International. 2014;25(10):2359-2381. doi:10.1007/s00198-014-2794-2.
2. Papaioannou A, Morin S, Cheung A et al. 2010 clinical practice guidelines for the diagnosis and management of osteoporosis in Canada: summary. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2010;182(17):1864-1873. doi:10.1503/cmaj.100771.
3. Osteoporosis Canada Launches New Exercise Recommendations - Canadian Physiotherapy Association. Physiotherapy.ca. 2016. Available at: http://www.physiotherapy.ca/News/Media/Media/Osteoporosis-Canada-Launches-New-Exercise-Recommen. Accessed August 4, 2016.
4. Osteoporosis Exercise for Strong Bones - National Osteoporosis Foundation. National Osteoporosis Foundation. 2016. Available at: https://www.nof.org/patients/fracturesfall-prevention/exercisesafe-movement/osteoporosis-exercise-for-strong-bones/. Accessed August 5, 2016.
5. Exercise for Healthy Bones. Osteoporosis.ca. 2016. Available at: http://www.osteoporosis.ca/osteoporosis-and-you/exercise-for-healthy-bones/. Accessed August 4, 2016.