26 May Building stronger bones: Exercise for osteoporosis
With over 2.2 million Australians over the age of 50 affected by osteoporosis, it’s easy to see why looking after bone health is important as you age. But what are the best exercises for preventing and managing osteoporosis?
What is Osteoporosis?
Throughout our lifetime, our bones are constantly going through a process called “bone remodelling”. New bone cells are produces (bone formation) and old bone cells are gotten rid of (bone resorption). In osteoporosis, the rate of bone resorption is increased with no increase in bone formation. This means that we get rid of old bone cells at a faster rate than we create our new ones, causing an overall change in structural integrity of our bones.
Osteoporosis is classified based on your Bone Mineral Density (BMD). When you go for a bone mineral density scan, you will receive a T-score which represents the density of your bone. They will then classify your bone health into three categories:
Best exercises for osteoporosis
Strength training is one of the best exercises for osteoporosis. Application of sufficient load on the skeletal system helps stimulate bone formation. The most effective way to do this is through a well-designed resistance training intervention. In fact, numerous studies show that resistance training causes significant improvements in BMD.
“Plyometrics” are explosive, powerful exercises that are trained to activate the quick response and elastic properties of the major muscles. It causes the participant to exert a high degree of force for a short period of time. Examples includes exercises like jumping, skipping and hopping. Research shows that jumping combined with resistance training show greater improvements in BMD than strength training alone.
Sound extreme? It doesn’t have to be.
Plyometrics don’t have to be super explosive movements like you see athletes performing. It can be simple step down patterns from a step or forward/backward hopping patterns on the ground. The key is to start slowly and progressively overload under guidance of an expert.
Although many aerobic exercise interventions are not as successful in improving BMD, they should still be considered as part of the overall training plan. They help with weight management, and can therefore help to unload joints of the lower limb. They are also crucial for overall health and well-being.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
Always chat to your GP and get advice from an exercise expert before starting a new exercise regime. An Accredited Exercise Physiologist is specially qualified to prescribe exercise for those with osteopenia or osteoporosis, and will work alongside your GP to ensure exercise prescription is safe and effective.
Tips for Getting started
See a qualified professional – When it comes to exercise, a “generic” program isn’t always the best way to start your strength training. Having an individualised strength program that is based on your assessment findings will be extremely beneficial.
Set exercise goals – It will help to keep you motivated and focused. Make sure they are S.M.A.R.T goals.
Use the right resistance – Establishing suitable resistance training loads will allow you to perform strength training safely and effectively.
Check in with yourself – Make sure you track your muscle and joint soreness each day, and be sure to let your Exercise Physiologist know how you’re feeling. This will help to establish the proper training loads moving forward.
Progressive overload is key – Progressively overloading your skeletal system improves your muscular strength and ensures you continue to see results.
Find Balance – Incorporating a balance component help to prevent falls and reduces the risk of osteoporotic fractures.
To wrap it up
If you have osteoporosis and are looking for ways to help manage your symptoms, I implore you to undertake a resistance training program. This should be done in consultation with your GP and exercise physiologist to allow maximal safety and effectiveness.
Adam Luther is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist & Performance Coach at Absolute Health Performance.