Low-Impact Weight-Bearing Exercises for Osteoporosis
No matter your age, weight or fitness level, exercise is critical to create and maintain healthy bones. Ample exercise in childhood through young adulthood means that you have probably maximized your bone production and strength, which usually occurs by the age of 35. Continued exercise into middle age and beyond means that likely you have reduced risks of developing osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disease.
Unfortunately, many people with osteoporosis have fallen victim to misinformation or otherwise erroneously believe that exercise will likely lead to injury from broken bones. Actually, quite the opposite is true. Taking part in a properly designed exercise program on a regular basis will not only improve the quality of life of someone suffering with osteoporosis and help prevent associated pain, but it can even help prevent the falls and fall-related fractures that can result in disability and death. One of the natural benefits of exercise is that it strengthens bones and muscles while improving balance, flexibility and coordination. This is very important for older adults and those diagnosed with osteoporosis.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation reports that the best exercises for building and maintaining bone density are:
- Weight-bearing exercise, e.g. walking, that makes you work against gravity while staying upright.
- Muscle-strengthening exercise, e.g. weight lifting, that makes you work against gravity in a standing, sitting, or prone position.
Other types of exercises classified as non-impact activities can also be helpful such as those associated with balance, functional, and posture exercises. While these exercises don’t build or maintain bone density, they can increase muscle strength, decreasing the risk of falls and fractures.
If you have osteoporosis or are at risk of osteoporosis it is important to have a thorough medical evaluation before engaging in an exercise routine. Most experts agree that supervised weight-bearing exercise and strength training exercise is a very effective and safe prevention, intervention and treatment strategy in combating osteoporosis. In fact, studies of postmenopausal women demonstrated that aerobic, weight-bearing, and strength training exercises increased bone density in the spine. An activity as simple as participating in a walking program increased bone density in both the spine and hip.
There is no single exercise regimen that’s best for everyone with osteoporosis, and each should be tailored to the individual patient based on a medical evaluation of:
- fracture risk
- muscle strength
- range of motion
- level of physical activity
During the evaluation, your doctor also will consider any other chronic conditions that can affect your ability to exercise, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease. If you have osteoporosis, The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that your doctor refer you to a specially trained physical therapist for a through physical assessment and exercise prescriptions that focus on body mechanics and posture, balance, gait and transfer training, resistance weights, and progressive aerobic activities.
Sample of Low-Impact Weight-Bearing Exercises for Osteoporosis
- elliptical training machines
- low-impact aerobics
- stair-step machines
- walking (either outside or on a treadmill machine)
Note: If you’re new to exercise, or are recently resuming an exercise routine, gradually increase your level of exercise to 30 minutes per day 3-5 days per week.