Can I Exercise if I Have Osteoporosis?
Exercise is important for overall health and stress reduction. Conditions like osteoporosis call for modifying or avoiding some exercises, but moving the body is an important part of treatment. Exercise can strengthen muscles and bones and improve balance.
Before beginning any exercise program, you should consult with your physician or a physical therapist.
What Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a bone-weakening disorder that increases the likelihood of bone fractures, particularly in the spine, hip, and wrist. The condition is usually caused by hormonal changes or a deficiency in vitamin D or calcium. The loss of old bone is greater than the body’s ability to create new bone. Men and women are affected but post-menopausal women have the highest risk. Taking certain medications can also increase the risk.
There are usually no signs early in the early stages. Loss of height, back pain, and a stooped posture are noticed over time.
What Exercises Should Be Avoided?
Exercise is important to stem the loss of bone mass. Strength training and balance exercises are particularly important, but some exercises should be avoided.
The following exercises and movements should generally be avoided with an osteoporosis diagnosis:
- High-Impact Exercises. Exercises that can jolt the body can fracture vulnerable bones. Sudden movement changes can also lead to injuries. The body takes a pounding when jumping and running. Rugby, tennis, plyometrics, and other similar activities can be problematic.
- Deep Spinal Bends and Twists. The spine may be too fragile to take it to extreme ranges of motion. These moves increase your risk of compression fractures. Golfing and bowling are activities that require forceful twists and can increase the possibility of spinal fractures. Be careful when participating in Pilates and yoga. While both methods offer benefits for osteoporosis, they can also be harmful. Spinal roll-downs, roll-overs, seated forward folds, and spine twists are often best skipped.
- Deep Stretches. Stretching itself is good but requires a light touch. Don’t stretch to the end range of motion. As already mentioned, forward folds to stretch hamstrings and the back increase injury risk. Why? Because forward folds encourage many people to round – or flex – their spine. A deep hip stretch like pigeon can place too much stress on the hip. Instead, a supine figure-four stretch with a neutral spine and keeping one foot on the ground would be less risky.
What Exercises Are Safe?
Slow, controlled movements are safest. Someone with a higher fitness level, even with osteoporosis, might be able to engage in some exercise that is inappropriate for someone else. As a rule, keeping your spine in a neutral position is best.
- Low-Impact Cardiovascular Exercises. Walking, light hiking, and dancing are generally safe, low-impact exercises that can raise your heart rate without compromising your bones.
- Gentle Stretches. Moving your joints through safe ranges of motion is good. Keep the spine neutral (no slouching) as you stretch. Very gentle side bends and rotation can be OK but have a professional show you how to keep the move safe. Ease into all stretches and never force anything. Don’t bounce in your joints as you stretch. Remember that stretches should only be performed after muscles are warm – at the end of a workout or after a 10-minute warmup.
- Weight-Bearing and Resistance Exercises. Planks and side planks are great weight-bearing exercises that strengthen the core. Using bands, tubes, and free weights are also great tools for keeping muscles strong. Proper form is key.
- Certain Core-Strengthening Exercises. Crunches basically work the rectus abdominus and can place too much load on the spine. Instead, work more muscles of the core (front and back) in bird dog and prone back extension. Planks also tap into many core muscles, such as the transversus abdominus and internal and external obliques.
- Balance Exercises. Tai chi is an excellent way to strengthen leg muscles and be steadier on your feet. Yoga and Pilates offer balance challenges as well but remember to avoid contraindicated exercises.
Appropriate exercise can be beneficial for almost everyone with osteoporosis. If you attend a class, tell your teacher that you have osteoporosis. A well-trained teacher can provide you with modifications.
Building an Osteoporosis-Safe Exercise Plan
Staying active is essential for keeping bones as strong as possible. Your doctor and physical therapist can ensure you stay safe based on your stage of osteoporosis, your general health, and your fitness level.
At ProFysio Physical Therapy, we can design an exercise plan that is unique to you. Our well-rounded program will include strength, flexibility, and balance moves with a special focus on proper form to keep the routine safe. Postural training and other treatments may be appropriate.
Find out more about our osteoporosis services in a free consultation. Schedule by calling (732) 812-5200 or by using our online form.