Exercises to Prevent Osteoporosis: How to Get Started

Rose Chon Health Guide

  • Exercise is vital to improving overall health and helps you look and feel good. It’s also a powerful weapon against osteoporosis, a silent disease with very few detectable signs. With osteoporosis, low bone mass and weakening of bone tissue leads to bone fragility and an increased susceptibility to fractures, especially of the hip, spine and wrist.

    One in two women and one in four men age 50 and older will suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Even if you are under 50, the following still applies to you, since the accumulation of lifestyle choices (diet, exercise, smoking, drinking) can affect the likelihood of developing osteoporosis. But, all hope is not lost!

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    Studies have shown positive links between physical activity and increased bone strength in men and women, teens, children, and even adults 90 years of age and older, so it’s never too late to start improving your bone health through exercise. This does not mean you have to become a marathon runner or a body builder. The best exercise for your bones is weight-bearing in nature and the optimal goal is at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days, preferably daily.

    How to Get Started

    If you are new to exercising, you may want to start with simple, low-impact activities, such as walking, climbing stairs, or easy resistance activities using an elastic band. For example, you can use a stretchy cord or a Theraband and step on one end with your right foot while holding on to the opposite end with your right hand. With your arm at your side, extend and bend at the elbow for a simple bicep curl. Then switch and do the same exercise using your left foot and left arm.

    For a more challenging workout, some great exercises include using moderate to heavy dumbbells for weight lifting, running, step aerobics, tennis, and jumping rope. Swimming and bicycling are examples of exercises that help build strong muscles and provide a good cardiovascular workout, but keep in mind they are not weight-bearing exercises.

    Now not everyone will have a mini-Sports Chalet in the garage with dumbbells and other exercise equipment, so if this is your situation, do not fret. You can use common household equipment for weights: cans, milk bottles, stretchy cords, or even bicycle tubes. Or you can also buy inexpensive hand, wrist or ankle weights.

    Exercise with Friends and Family

    Remember, exercising does not have to be done alone. Since it benefits people of all ages, try to get friends and family to participate in bone building activities! Parents can teach their children by example and together make exercise fun. Playing games like tag, hide-and-go-seek, hop-scotch, and jump rope are fun, no-cost ideas.

    For those of you who don’t like to exercise and have already created a list of reasons why you cannot or will not exercise, let me share a few reasons why weight-bearing activities improve bone health. First, like muscle, bone is living tissue and weight-bearing exercise stimulates bone formation and as a result, the bone becomes stronger. Second, weight-bearing exercise also strengthens muscles that directly affect the engaged bones, which keeps bones strong. Third, participating in regular physical activity improves your coordination, balance and strength, which can minimize your risk of experiencing bone injuries and falls.

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    However, the road to strong and healthy bones does not begin and end with exercise. It is just one step in the right direction. Exercise alone cannot guarantee an osteoporosis-free life. A proper diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is also vital in treating and preventing osteoporosis. Good nutrition can reduce the likelihood of osteoporosis by as much as one-half. The good news is it’s never too late to improve your bone health by consuming foods rich in calcium and exercising! So, let’s sweat our way to stronger bones!

Published On: February 22, 2007