Staying active even with osteoporosis

Dear Mayo Clinic: My 70-year-old mother is an active person. She enjoys being outdoors, hiking and boating, and regularly plays tennis with a group of other women. She was recently diagnosed with osteoporosis and is concerned about maintaining her active lifestyle for fear of injury. Can she continue to exercise? If so, what types of exercises are best for her?

Congratulations to your mom for staying active as she gets older.

Exercise is an important part of healthy aging, but especially in osteoporosis.

Many women mistakenly believe that exercise will lead to a fracture.

Sure, while a bone-weakening condition like osteoporosis often results in fractures in the hip and spine — which can seriously impair your mobility and independence — regular exercise can protect bones.

Overall, the benefits of exercise for postmenopausal women are significant.

Regular physical activity can:

  • Increase muscle strength.
  • Improve balance and reduce the risk of falling.
  • Reduce the risk of bone fractures.
  • Keep or improve the posture.
  • Relieves or reduces pain.

Exercise with osteoporosis is possible – and encouraged.

Many types of activities are recommended for people with osteoporosis, including:

Strength training exercises

Strength training involves using free weights, resistance bands, or your body weight to strengthen all major muscle groups, especially the back muscles that are important for posture.

Resistance training can also help maintain bone density.

If you use weight machines, be careful not to twist your spine while performing exercises or adjusting the machines.

Tailor resistance training to your ability and tolerance, especially if you’re in pain.

A physical therapist or personal trainer experienced in working with people with osteoporosis can help you develop strength-training routines.

Proper form and technique are critical to avoiding injury and getting the most out of your workout.

Weight-bearing aerobic exercises

Weight-bearing aerobic activities involve performing aerobic exercises on your feet, where your bones support your weight.

Examples include walking, dancing, low-impact aerobics, elliptical training, climbing stairs, and gardening.

These types of exercises work directly on the bones in your legs, hips, and lower back to slow the loss of minerals.

They also provide cardiovascular benefits – boosting heart and circulatory health.

It’s important that aerobic activities, as beneficial as they are to your overall health, are not the whole exercise program.

It is also important to work on strength, flexibility and balance.

Swimming and biking have many benefits, but they don’t provide the weight-bearing load your bones need to slow mineral loss.

However, if you enjoy these activities, do them.

Just be sure to add weight-bearing activities as well if you’re able.

Flexibility Exercises

Moving your joints through their full range of motion can help keep your muscles working properly.

Stretching is best done after your muscles have warmed up, for example at the end of your training session or after a 10-minute warm-up.

They should be performed gently and slowly, without bouncing.

Avoid stretches that bend your spine or cause you to bend at the waist.

Ask your healthcare team which stretches are best for you.

Stability and Balance Exercises

Fall prevention is especially important for people with osteoporosis.

Stability and balance exercises help your muscles work together to keep you more stable and less likely to fall.

Simple exercises, such as standing on one leg, or movement-based exercises, such as tai chi, can improve your stability and balance.

ALSO READ: Tai chi: Good for body and mind

Typically, when someone has osteoporosis, strenuous exercises such as jumping, running, or jogging should be avoided.

These exercises can lead to fractures in weakened bones.

It’s also important to avoid frequent bending and twisting, as well as quick, jerky movements that can accompany activities such as bowling.

Because of the different degrees of osteoporosis, your mother should talk to her healthcare team about what activities are best given her health and the amount of bone loss.

There is no one-size-fits-all recipe, but she should be able to maintain her active lifestyle without fear. – Mayo Clinic News Network/Tribune News Service

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