Women often come into my office wanting an exercise program to strengthen their bones. To see where the majority of bone loss is, and whether they have osteoporosis or osteopenia, I ask for is a copy of their Bone Density Scan (DXA scan). Based on the results of the bone scan, the individual’s balance, posture and overall health we work together to design an enjoyable and effective program.
The three major components of an effective program are weight bearing exercise, resistance training and balance exercises.
Weight bearing exercise, is exercise in which you hold your body weight; for example, in walking, stair climbing and running. Swimming and cycling, although wonderful cardiovascular non-impact exercise, are not weight bearing. To prevent bone loss an effective walking program must include fast pace walking for a minimum of 30 minutes, 4-5 times per week.
Resistance training includes exercise in which you use your body weight, exercise bands or weights to create a muscular contraction. There are several systems that include resistance training such as Pilates, Gyrotonic® exercise and Power Plate. It is important that your trainer is knowledgeable about osteoporosis, which movements to include and which avoid; for example, bending your spine with resistance can lead to spinal injury. In addition, a known risk factor in falling is the actual fear of falling, so avoid instructors that make you fearful of moving. Fear of movement is not helpful for your mind, body or bones. It is better to learn how to move your spine in a healthy way, rather than limit your movement. Postural exercises should be incorporated into your resistance training as well. Strengthening your back muscles not only helps prevent bone loss, it also helps with your posture. Also, make sure to incorporate exercises that focus on the areas where you have the most bone loss.
Balance exercises can be easily incorporated into your daily life. Safely, brush your teeth while standing on one foot, or try to walk down the hall with one foot in front of the other as though you are walking on a tight rope. Also, massaging your feet and moving your ankles, brings awareness to your feet and, thus, increases balance.
I remind my patients of two things: 1)Your program must be enjoyable or you wont do it. Find a way to move that feels good, and that is convenient for you. 2) Challenge yourself enough to stimulate your bones to grow, but don’t push so hard that you get injured. In general, find a weight that you can lift with good form until you feel muscle fatigue (about 8 times). Listen to your body and what signals it’s giving you, or seek out a physical therapist or highly trained exercise coach to help develop a safe and effective program that works for you.
For more information stop by our
Fall Osteoporosis support group:
Friday Nov 8th at 12 noon: Managing Osteoporosis with exercise
Winter Osteoporosis support group:
Wednesday Jan 8th at 7pm: Balance and fall prevention