Exercise and Osteoporosis - Bone, to be maintained, must be strained
Have you been diagnosed with osteoporosis?
Chances are if you’re reading this, you or someone you know has. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis is common. In fact, one in two women and up to one in four men age 50 and older will break a bone due to osteoporosis (“Learn What Osteoporosis is,” n.d.).
Osteoporosis literally means porous bone. The density of quality of bone is reduced, and as a result, bones become fragile. Even the slightest bump or minor fall can result in a fracture. Because of this, it is often called a “silent disease.” People often don’t even know they have osteoporosis until they sustain a fracture (“What is Osteoporosis,” n.d.).
What causes osteoporosis?
There are a number of risk factors for osteoporosis; however, it is most commonly seen in women after menopause. Estrogen has a protective effect on bones, so, when estrogen stops being produced, bones no longer benefit from that protective effect (Gambacciani and Levancini 2014).
Other risk factors include (Lane 2006):
Certain drugs: most commonly glucocorticoids (see table below for other drugs that may affect bone mass)
Low physical activity
Low intake of calcium and vitamin D
Small body size
Personal or family history of fracture
All of these risk factors should be taken into account when assessing one’s risk for developing osteoporosis.
What can you do to prevent or treat osteoporosis?
A diagnosis of osteoporosis can lead to fear or avoidance of exercise, and even movement in general. Luckily, exercise and diet have been shown time and again to be both preventative and restorative. The best part is that even if you do not have osteoporosis, these steps can be taken to protect against osteoporosis and maintain strong, healthy bones. Staying active and consuming enough calcium, protein, and vitamin D is key to improving bone and muscle health to decrease risk or complications of osteoporosis (“What is Osteoporosis,” n.d.).
Bone responds to loading. Mechanical loading and muscle contraction promote bone formation; therefore, high-impact weight-bearing exercises have been shown to benefit bone health and help in treatment of osteoporosis (“Osteoporosis Exercise for Strong Bones,” n.d.).
Examples of high-impact weight-bearing exercises are:
Examples of low-impact weight-bearing exercises are:
Lifting free weights
Using elastic exercise bands
Using weight machines
Lifting your own body weight
Functional movements, such as sit to stands and heel raises
For more information on what you can do to eat well and build bone strength – click here: https://www.iofbonehealth.org/sites/default/files/PDFs/WOD%20Reports/WOD11_Report.pdf
Studies suggest that there isn’t one exercise that is better than the other when it comes to high-impact weight-bearing exercises, but multicomponent exercise programs appear to have the most potential to affect much of the adverse changes attributable to osteoporosis (Varahra 2018). So, the best exercises are the exercises that you will actually do.
Just remember – “Bone, to be maintained, must be mechanically strained”
If you’ve already sustained a previous fracture, be sure to talk with your doctor as there may be special precautions for you to fully protect your bones and prevent risk of future fractures.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to talk with your physician or physical therapist to determine what might be best for you.
Physical therapists specialize in providing a personalized exercise prescription for you that can help combat osteoporosis.
Gambacciani M, Levancini M. Management of postmenopausal osteoporosis and the prevention of fractures. Panminerva Medica. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24942322. Published June 2014. Accessed January 29, 2018.
Learn What Osteoporosis Is and What It's Caused by. National Osteoporosis Foundation. https://www.nof.org/patients/what-is-osteoporosis/. Accessed January 28, 2018.
Lane NE. Epidemiology, etiology, and diagnosis of osteoporosis. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16448873. Published February 2006. Accessed January 29, 2018.
Osteoporosis Exercise for Strong Bones. National Osteoporosis Foundation. https://www.nof.org/patients/fracturesfall-prevention/exercisesafe-movement/osteoporosis-exercise-for-strong-bones/. Accessed January 28, 2018.
Varahra A, Rodrigues IB, MacDermid JC, Bryant D, Birmingham T. Exercise to improve functional outcomes in persons with osteoporosis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Osteoporosis International. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29306984. Published January 2018. Accessed January 28, 2018.
What is Osteoporosis? | International Osteoporosis Foundation. https://www.iofbonehealth.org/what-is-osteoporosis.Accessed January 28, 2018.