May 15, 2011

Osteoporosis: What your doctor may not tell you:

If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, your physician probably prescribed medication and advised you to take calcium, vitamin D, and to exercise.  However, there is a good chance that he or she did not tell you which exercises to do, and more importantly, which ones to avoid.  High impact activities such as running, sports with explosive twisting such as golf or tennis, as well as certain resistance exercises can put you at increased risk for a fracture.
Bone is living tissue and the stress from weight bearing exercise helps improve bone density. However, walking, biking and swimming do not have enough impact to cause stress to the bone.  So how do you get around this catch 22 of avoiding impact while strengthening the bones?  One solution is to walk with a weighted vest; this will increase the stress on the bones, without risks of high impact. (The vest has the additional benefit of increasing your calorie burn).  Step aerobics, incline treadmill walking, and elliptical trainers may also be beneficial to the bones without increasing your fracture risk.
Weight training is another effective way to help build bone (or at least slow the rate of bone loss), but several exercises are considered risky for those with osteoporosis.   Squats with heavy weights, forward flexion and twisting motions may increase the risk of fracture (especially with osteoporosis of the spine) so these exercises should be avoided or modified.  This includes traditional abdominal exercises such as crunches, so see the posts from November 2010 on some safe ways to work your abs.
Balance training (see post from April 1, 2011) is another important component of your fitness program.  Reducing your risk of falling will decrease your chance of a bone fracture.  Speak to your physician about exercise specifics, but you may need to see an osteoporosis specialist to find someone who is really on top of exercise details.  Exercise is an essential part in maintaining bone health, a diagnosis of osteoporosis should not be an excuse to stop.

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