IN our weekly feature here, we like to incorporate everything health and fitness related but also involve everyone, from the gym bunnies to the families getting out and active, the kiddies to the older members of society, the injured to the athlete, and everyone in between, we want to help you all in whatever we can, be the best version of you.
This week I want to talk to you about exercising with weak or brittle bones. It is estimated that 300,000 people in Ireland have Osteoporosis. One in four men, and one in two women over 50 will develop a fracture due to osteoporosis in their lifetime.
Exercise is powerful medicine for people with osteoporosis, weak or brittle bones, and in the prevention of brittle bones later in life. It helps reduce bone loss and builds stronger muscles to support you. The result is that you’re less likely to have a fall or fracture. But not just any workout will do. If you’re able, you should do both muscle strengthening and weight-bearing exercises.
Weight-bearing exercise simply means your feet and legs are supporting you. As the force of gravity puts stress on your bones, they respond by building more cells. These exercises include any activities you do while standing. If you have severe osteoporosis or have already had a fracture, some activities may be risky. So before taking on any new exercise, talk to your doctor to make sure it’s right for you.
Lifting weights or using resistance equipment at the gym will build bone and muscle mass at the same time. Aim to work each major muscle group twice a week with at least 1 day of rest in between. If you’re new to lifting weights, check with your doctor first, and work with a trainer to learn proper form.
Want to get active at home? Carrying a watering can, picking up debris, and doing other yard work can help you build strength. These activities aren’t right for everyone with osteoporosis. Most spine fractures occur while bending forward. If you enjoy gardening, try to keep your spine straight and avoid twisting at the waist.
If you’re able to walk at a quick pace, even for short periods, your bones will reap the benefits. Three short walks a day are as good as one long one. Brisk walking is also good for your heart health. If you’re concerned about sidewalk cracks or other tripping hazards, a treadmill is a good alternative.
At the gym: Low-impact aerobics are a safer choice for people with more severe osteoporosis. And no-impact classes, such as water aerobics, may be the best choice for those who have already had a fracture. Why not try yoga? Don’t be fooled by the gentle nature of yoga. Besides improving posture and flexibility, it strengthens bones, we should all practice some form of yoga from a young age. Although some yoga poses, particularly forward-bends, may not be suitable for people with osteoporosis. Ask your doctor or physical therapist if there are positions you should skip.
Good balance is crucial when you have osteoporosis, being steady on your feet will lower the risk of falls and breaks. Tai Chi is one way to strengthen your legs and enhance your poise. A physical therapist can show you other exercises to improve balance.
To boost bone health, do weight-bearing activities like walking or dancing at least four days a week. Aim for 30 minutes if you’re able, you can divide the time up into chunks of 10 or 15 minutes. At least twice a week, add in exercises that build muscle. And don’t forget to stretch regularly.
You can also do your bones a favour by making small changes to your everyday routine. Whenever possible, walk instead of drive, choose the farthest parking spot from the shops, and take the stairs instead of the lift. If you have any questions about what activities are safe for you, please check with your doctor first.