Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Exercise's Effects on Bones and Muscles

  • Strengthening exercises build muscle strength. Exercises to strengthen leg muscles are a reasonable first step, even before using pain relievers. Health care professionals fear that patients who rely on painkilling drugs may overuse knees, which do not have strong enough muscle tissue to protect the joints from further damage. Strengthening the thigh muscles is certainly protective for those who have not developed osteoarthritis.
  • Range-of-motion exercises increase the amount of movement in a joint and muscle. Examples are yoga and tai chi, which focus on flexibility, balance, and proper breathing.
  • Low-impact aerobic workouts help stabilize and support the joints. Cycling and walking are beneficial, and swimming or exercising in water is highly recommended for people with arthritis. Patients with arthritis should avoid high-impact sports, such as jogging, tennis, and racquetball.
  • Some researchers are now focusing on "power" training, which involves improving the muscle's ability to move more rapidly against resisting forces, such as gravity. For example, such training helps people stand up or climb stairs more quickly. Muscle power declines more rapidly than muscle strength, and may be particularly important in older people.

Exercises Effect on Fractures and Falls

Exercise is very important for slowing the progression of osteoporosis, and extremely important for reducing the risk of falling, which causes fractures. Falls are one of the leading causes of death in people over the age of 65. Exercise helps build balance and flexibility, which reduces the risk of falling.

Specific exercises may be especially helpful for reducing the risk of fractures:

  • Weight-bearing exercise is very beneficial for bones in people of all ages, including older people. This approach applies tension to muscle and bone, and the body responds to this stress by increasing bone density, in young adults by as much as 2 - 8% a year. Careful weight training can also be very beneficial for elderly people, particularly women. In addition to improving bone density, weight-bearing exercise reduces the risk of fractures by improving muscle strength and balance, thus helping to prevent falls.
  • Regular brisk long walks improve bone density and mobility. In one study, for example, older women reduced their risk of hip fracture by over 40% by working out just four hours a week.
  • Exercises specifically targeted to strengthen the back can be beneficial in improving posture, and may even reduce kyphosis (hunchback) in people with osteoporosis.
  • Low-impact exercises, particularly yoga and tai chi, which improve balance and strength, have been found to decrease the risk of falling. In one study, tai chi reduced this risk by almost half.
Click the icon to see an image of the bone-building exercise.

Note on Female Athlete Triad. Some young female athletes who exercise very intensely, and are subject to intense pressure to remain thin, are at risk for the female athlete triad. This syndrome is a combination of three disorders -- an eating disorder, loss of menstrual periods, and osteoporosis.

Effect of Exercise on Back Pain

People who do not exercise regularly face an increased risk for low back pain, especially during times when they suddenly have to perform stressful, unfamiliar activities. These activities may include shoveling, digging, or moving heavy items. Although no definitive studies have been done to prove the relationship between lack of exercise and low back pain, sedentary living is probably a contributing risk factor for this condition.

Lack of exercise leads to the following conditions that may threaten the back:


Review Date: 05/08/2011
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org)