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Healthy Bones, Healthy Life

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.

Regular Walking

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.

Strengthen Muscles

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 positions.

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.