Young People Get Osteoporosis Too 

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Why is exercise important for those with Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition where bones that were once strong and thick become weak and brittle. It is normal to lose bone mass with age, but loss to the point of frequent fractures can cause health problems and a loss of independence. Regular exercise can not only prevent Osteoporosis, but can also decrease the rate of  bone loss once it has begun

What types of exercise are beneficial and safe?
A specific type of exercise, weight-bearing exercise, is necessary to strengthen bones. Weight-bearing exercise is defined as any activity you do where your bones are supporting your weight. Examples include walking and stair climbing. However, when doing weight-bearing exercises, it is important to choose an activity that is safe for you and not dangerous to the joints. A weight-bearing exercise does not need to be a high-impact exercise, such as jogging. The force your muscles exert on the bones also helps to strengthen them. The stronger a muscle is, the more force it exerts upon the bone. Therefore, by strengthening your muscles you can also strengthen your bones. Weight lifting and resistance training are two types of exercise that help to strengthen muscles. Even lifting a small amount of weight on a regular basis can have health benefits. Small hand weights and resistance bands are examples of muscle strengthening equipment that are inexpensive and easy to use.

Weakening bones are a fact of life that all people, especially women, must face as they grow older. However, steps can be taken early in life to prevent Osteoporosis. While prevention is the best protection, loss of bone density can be reduced with treatment including exercise, caution, and diet. Exercise is an essential tool in the battle against Osteoporosis as it is effective in both prevention and treatment.

Types of Exercise  good for bones Types of Exercise to Avoid
step aerobics running/jogging
water aerobics basketball
walking skiing
tai chi and low impact martial arts tennis
dancing bowling
swimming weight lifting

Weight bearing exercises
are those that require the body to perform work. Examples of aerobic exercises that help include walking, water aerobics (also known as aqua aerobics) and step aerobics. These include activities you do on your feet with your bones supporting your weight. Walking, jogging and stair climbing are examples. They work directly on the bones in your legs, hips and lower spine to slow mineral loss. If you have osteoporosis, walking — preferably at least a mile a day — is generally the best weight-bearing exercise because it minimizes jarring to your bones.

Aerobic exercises
are designed for weight loss and muscular redesign and therefore place less demand on the skeleton. A further benefit of aerobic exercise is that, if done correctly, it is a low-impact exercise—better for joints and bones. Water aerobics, in particular, has minimal impact on bones and joints. In addition to aerobic exercises, Tai Chi and other similar martial arts, dancing and hiking are encouraged.

Resistance training
Also called strength training, resistance training uses various means of resistance, such as free weights, weight machines, elastic bands and water exercises, to strengthen the muscles and bones in your arms and upper spine. It can also work directly on your bones to slow mineral loss. If you have osteoporosis, you'll need the assistance of your doctor or physical therapist to design a strength-training program that includes proper techniques and is appropriate for your degree of bone loss.

Back-strengthening exercises
These exercises primarily work on muscles rather than bone. Research indicates that strengthening your back muscles may help treat osteoporosis by maintaining or improving posture. That's because the stooped posture caused by osteoporotic compression fractures may cause increased pressure along your spine, leading to even more compression fractures. Exercises that gently arch your back can strengthen back muscles while minimizing stress on bones.

Yoga and Pilates for Osteoporosis
It is commonly stated that activities like yoga and pilates are not good for building healthy bones, but like many overly broad statements, this generalization bears a closer look. There are many factors involved in exercise - time, intensity, frequency and duration to name a few. To say that yoga is not good for bone building by itself is not a true statement. The question to ask is, What activity is yoga being compared to? Compared to lying in bed watching TV or sitting at a PC keying in data, yoga is probably a great form of bone building exercise.

There are many different types of yoga, and some yoga classes can be pretty intense. There are yoga poses where you sit or lay on the floor and relax, and there are other yoga poses do things like balance on one foot while holding the other foot out behind you with one hand. Postures like the latter one can involve quite a bit of weight bearing activity. If you can't do weight lifting exercises because of scoliosis or fibromyalgia pain, common conditions in women with osteoporosis, you may want to consider trying something less strenuous such as yoga or pilates

Dance as Exercise
Dancing as aerobic exercise uses large muscle groups in a continuous, rhythmic fashion for sustained periods of time.  It is excellent exercise for people with osteoporosis because of the action of "mechanical loading," which is weight-bearing activity causes your bones and muscles to work against gravity to become stronger an denser.

Dancing can also improve circulation, tone muscles, and increase flexibility, coordination and balance.  Studies by the Mayo Clinic show that 10 minutes of continuous ballroom dancing can burn 30-80 calories in a 120-130 pound person, and 45-120 calories in someone weighing 200 pounds.

A slow foxtrot may be no more difficult than walking, while 30 minutes of cha cha or samba provides the equivalent to a moderate level aerobic workout.  As with any form of exercise, dancing is beneficial only if done on a regular basis.

Gardening as Exercise
The physical activity involved in gardening requires body movement that expends energy.  It's another form or exercise that can help slow the loss of muscle mass, reduce joint and muscle pain, and strengthen bones.  Even short periods of gardening throughout the day can add up to 30 minutes of moderate physical activity.  Remember to talk to your doctor before beginning new exercises or activities.

Good body mechanics--proper posture and correct movements--will help protect your bones while you're gardening outdoors.  Proper alignment, the relationship of the head, shoulder, spine and hips to each other puts less stress on the spine and helps good posture.  Standing or sitting in a slumped, head-forward position, bending forward, or twisting puts stress on your spine that may be harmful.

Golf: Can I play with osteoporosis?:
  Golf can be a great activity that gets you outdoors and provides beneficial exercise. The key is to play with optimal golf swing mechanics to reduce stress on your spine. Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle, which makes them susceptible to fractures with excessive or repetitive stress. Optimal golf technique avoids putting extra stress on your spine. In fact, with good technique, golfing can be an activity that can place appropriate stress on bones to help them maintain density and strength. Also, walking the golf course provides weight-bearing exercise, which helps preserve bone density.

Ask your golf professional to assess your golf swing to make sure it's as good as it can be. Some facilities use video analysis to assess and improve golf swings. You may also need an exercise program specific to your needs to optimize your swing. For example, tight hip muscles can prevent you from rotating properly during the swing, which can lead to excessive stress on your spine. ---   By Mayo Clinic staff


Exercise recommendations for sufferers of vertebral fractures
For people who have some health impairments already, including prior osteoporosis-related fractures, especially those of the spine, high-impact exercise is not usually recommended.  Compressive forces are generated in the spine during jumping and other jarring movements, and these may be too much for a spine already affected by vertebral compression fractures -- or even with significant degenerative disk disease or arthritis unrelated to osteoporosis.  Walking would be preferred to running in these patients because one foot is always on the ground during walking, whereas during running, both feet are temporarily in the air with the entire weight of the body landing on one foot.
Use caution to avoid:
  • bending forward with a rounded back
  • lifting
  • twisting of torso
  • reaching far up and forward
All of these motions can produce forces in the vertebral bones that can facilitate further compression.  Patients with new grandchildren may find it difficult to avoid picking up infants and toddlers.  There may be such inherent benefits to these activities that they are worth the risk.  They should be done carefully, however.  Any lifting at all must be done very carefully to avoid any forward bending or flexion of the torso; the back must be totally straight and the legs, particularly the thighs, must support the weight with the knees bent to pick something up from the floor.  Moreover, any significant pain occurring during any activity or exercise should make a person stop right away and should be a sign that this activity is not the right one for the individual.
aerobic exercises for sufferers of vertebral fractures
  • ballroom dancing
  • elliptical or moon walker (a lower-impact form of the treadmill)
  • low-impact aerobic dance or calisthenics classes
  • rapid walking
  • stepper or stair-climbing machine
  • bicycling
  • swimming

Remember, the goal is to keep moving.  Even the simplest things can make a difference.  For example:

  • get up during TV commercials and walk around the room

  • Pace while you're on the phone, don't just sit.  If you have a cordless phone, walk around while you talk.

  • Walk to the TV to change the channel instead of using the remote control.

  • Park farther away from your destination in large parking lots.

  • Explore your neighborhood a block at a time.

If doing things with others helps you stay active, consider joining an exercise group, like a mall-walkers program, a walking club, a local dance class, or find a walking partner to meet at a regular time each week.

Remember to be sensible about increasing your exercise goals and activity level, and keep a good attitude.

Exercise Tips:
Lift and lower weights slowly to maximize muscle strength and minimize the risk of injury. 

It's best to perform your resistance workout every third day. This gives your body a chance to recover. 

Avoid rowing machines--they require deep forward bending that may lead to a vertebral fracture. 

Stiffness the morning after exercise is normal. But if you're in pain most of the following day, your joints are swollen, or you're limping, stop the program until you are again comfortable, and cut your weights and repetitions by 25% to 50%. If bone, joint, or muscle pain is severe, call your doctor. 

If a particular area of your body feels sore right after exercise, apply ice for 10 to 15 minutes. Wrap ice in a towel or baggie, or just hold a cold can of soda to the spot. 

Vary your routine to make it more interesting. For example, if your strength-building program involves 12 separate exercises, do six in one session and the other six in the next


Strong Women Strong Bones by Miriam Nelson teaches women how to prevent and treat osteoporosis through exercise - Your Virtual Trainer with Dr. Miriam Nelson

National Osteoporosis Foundation also has an exercise video available

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