Exercise Guidelines for Osteoporosis

Health Professional

The human body is designed to move.   Years ago humans spent hours on a daily basis hunting for food, gathering food and moving from one location to the next.   Nowadays, we spend hours sitting in front of a computer, lounging on couches, or riding in our automobiles.   Thus, an exercise program is meant to restore activity and movement to daily activities, counteracting the effects of all the inactive hours during the day.   Everyone needs an exercise program.   People that have osteoporosis need an exercise program designed specifically for bone health.

Exercise needs to be daily.   Establishing exercise as a daily habit makes sense because that is the only way to improve strength and endurance.   Like any habit, old ones are hard to break and new ones are hard to get started.   It helps to schedule time for a daily exercise routine.   It also helps to have an accountability partner or exercise partner.  Soon this daily routine will become as natural as brushing your teeth.   You would not go a day without brushing your teeth, nor should you go a day without exercise.

Challenge your balance while you exercise.   Anyone with osteoporosis needs to work on improving balance in order to reduce the risk of falls.   Practicing Tai Chi is certainly one way to reduce your fall risk.   Other balance challenging activities that will improve your ability to avoid falls include use of a Swiss Ball or use of a balance board.   Even practicing standing on one leg can greatly enhance your exercise program.

Strengthen your spine extensors.   The most common osteoporosis-related fracture involves the spine, specifically the vertebral body or anterior portion of the spine.   By strengthening the muscles that help to extend the spine, you will reduce the amount of pressure or load on the vulnerable front of the spine.   With stronger spine muscles, you will be less likely to slouch or hunch over.   As a result, you will also greatly reduce your risk of a spine fracture.   Examples of exercises that help to strengthen the spine extensors include the "bird dog" and the "hip bridge".

Practice spine-sparing body mechanics.   The spine allows for a great deal of movement such as: forward, backward, side to side and rotation.   All this movement can hurt especially if you already have a spine fracture.   In order to spare the spine a lot of extra movement, the hip needs greater "hinge" capabilities.   Normal hip movement can prevent extra spine movement, like when you bend from the hips and not from the spine.   If the hip is stiff, the spine has to move more.   If most of the movement comes from the hip joint, then the spine can rest in a neutral posture.   A physical therapist can assist you in regaining hip range of motion and improving hip function. The hips can greatly spare your spine the extra work.

Add as much weight-bearing exercises to your program because weight-bearing can improve bone density.   In fact, weightlessness causes the bones to deteriorate because of the lack of both muscle and ground forces acting upon the bones, stimulating bone formation.   However, some people cannot tolerate full weight-bearing activities, in which case, a reduce weight environment in a pool is a good starting point. As fitness improves, walking in the pool can gradually lead to fully weight-bearing while walking on land.

All of these tips about exercising will help your bones remain healthy and strong.   Now more than ever is a time to commit to a regular routine that will improve your balance, increase your spine strength, reduce spine stress, and stimulate bone health.

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