If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, or you’re at risk for bone thinning, your doctor may advise you to exercise regularly as part of your treatment plan. Exercise can prevent or slow bone loss and reduce your risk of fractures. The most effective workouts for osteoporosis focus on strength, flexibility, and balance.
Walking gives you a low-impact aerobic workout that involves nearly every part of your body. It’s a weight-bearing exercise in the sense that the weight of your own body is providing the resistance needed to strengthen your muscles and bones. At a moderate to quick pace, walking gets your heart pumping and blood circulating, which also benefits bone health.
Variations on walking—dancing, aerobics classes, and workouts on treadmills or ellipticals—offer the same benefits. Some exercises, like bicycling and water aerobics, are helpful but they are not weight-bearing and don’t directly help bone health. Be careful about workouts that are high-impact, especially if your osteoporosis is advanced or you have other conditions such as arthritis.
Falls are especially dangerous for people with osteoporosis since bones that are thin or weak can break easily. Weight lifting builds muscle and strength, which are essential in supporting your bones and helping your coordination. Adding hand weights or ankle weights as you walk or stretch is a good start.
You may also decide to use weight machines at a gym. If so, it’s advisable to consult with your doctor and work with a trainer and begin with lower weights and gentle movements. It’s important to use the correct form to avoid injury, especially to your spine. An alternative is to use elastic resistance bands. These tend to be easier on your muscles and joints.
Yoga can strengthen your muscles and bones while also improving balance and flexibility. With good balance, you are less likely to experience a serious fall. Another common malady associated with osteoporosis is hunched posture. Yoga can help you strengthen your core muscles and improve your posture.
However, yoga poses that cause twisting or stretching of the spine can be risky for people who have osteoporosis, so be sure to talk with your doctor before beginning or continuing your yoga routine. Your yoga instructor can show you adaptations that may cause less stress on the spine. Gentle forms of yoga, including chair yoga, can strengthen muscles without putting excess impact on spine or joints.
If you’re already active, osteoporosis doesn’t have to slow you down. While you may need to make some slight changes in your workout, you can still get the exercise you need. If you haven’t been working out, a diagnosis of osteoporosis should be a good motivation to get moving. You can slow the progress of osteoporosis and stay healthy by making exercise a regular part of your life.
In the Utah County area, the doctors at Premier Family Medicine can advise you on the best workouts for osteoporosis. Click here to explore resources and treatments.