1 in 2 women and 1 in 4 men age 50 and older will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a skeletal disorder where there is a reduction of bone
mass, both in the quantity and quality so that bones become fragile and
easily fracture or break. This can occur with a fall, a sneeze, incorrect
lifting form, or performing the wrong exercise in the gym or class setting.
Presently about 54 million Americans are affected by this disease making
it more prevalent than coronary heart disease, diabetes, or a heart attack.
A trained physical therapist can help people with low bone mass or bone
health issues learn how to exercise safely, strengthen their bones and
reduce their risk of falls. Exercise is important, but please keep in
mind the management for low bone mass can also include nutrition and medication.
For people with normal bone health emphasizing weight bearing activities
is most important. This is when you are standing and working against gravity
to keep your body upright. Walking is a weight bearing activity, but jogging
and running remain excellent for these individuals who desire to maintain
their normal bone health. There is no research that shows walking alone
will increase your bone density. Additionally, muscle-strengthening exercises
or resistance exercises have been shown to slow down bone depletion and
even regain bone density. These weight lifting activities are very site
specific and increase bone strength by the muscle actually pulling on
the bone to strengthen it. Obviously lifting weights with your arms will
strengthen the muscles and bones in your arms and lifting weights with
your legs will strengthen your leg muscles and bones.
Typically, patients who have osteopenia or osteoporosis have goals that
include staying healthy, being active, and remaining independent. To reach
these goals, consider four key points.
Participate in a regular walking program, ideally 3 to 5 times a week while
maintaining 75 to 80% of your maximum heart rate. Walking will help you
keep your bones healthy. If you are middle aged or post-menopausal and
depending on your medical health, present level of function, and bone
density testing, studies suggest you may be able to progress to high impact
activities such as jogging, jumping, running, stair climbing, and racquet
sports. “Surprise” the bones and walk backwards, sideways
and on uneven surfaces if you can do this safely. Elderly individuals
need to concentrate on 2 to 4 hours of leisure time for physical activity.
Just as important as weight bearing is muscle strengthening. It must be
done 2 to 3 times a week, while always increasing your weights. You will
not build muscle or bone mass by lifting the same weight day after day.
For beginners lifting a weight that is fatiguing at 12 repetitions is
a general guideline. This is where a trained professional is most important.
Strengthen Your Back
The 3rd important component of your bone health regiment includes specific back
strengthening exercises. These can be implemented to your needs and progressed
in the back lying, prone, on all 4’s or quadruped, and in standing
Keep Your Balance
Balance activities can assist with fall prevention in the more elderly
population and need to be customized by a PT while progressing with more
difficult activities to continually challenge one’s balance.
For further information regarding safe exercise, please consider contacting
a trained physical therapist for evaluation and customization of a program
that fits your medical needs.