If you have osteoporosis, then you need an osteoporosis-specific exercise plan. A prescription for exercise should address your five basic physical fitness needs: flexibility, muscle strength, core stability, cardiovascular fitness, and gait steadiness. For those with bone health problems, two of those exercise needs are particularly important, yet often overlooked. Core stability is important because it supports the spine and gait steadiness is important because it prevents falls.1 Without an appropriate, osteoporosis-specific exercise treatment plan, these key areas can be missed and potential consequences can arise.
The wrong exercises, like sit-ups for example, can cause bone fractures in people with osteoporosis. Any exercise that emphasizes spine flexion should be avoided because it puts too much stress on weakened bones. Instead, simple exercises that strengthen the spine extensor muscles are good osteoporosis-specific exercises. Like this one:
Superhuman Exercise: Lie on your bed with a pillow underneath your chest; the shoulders will now be higher than the surface of the bed. Lift the arms and head off the bed; Keep the hands held close the your head (in time as strength improves they can be stretched out in front of you) And keep your nose pointed to the bed; Your head should not be touching the pillow or the bed as you hold it suspended above the bed; As your strength improves, you can start lifting the legs too. It’s as if you are flying or about to take off like a superhuman that you are; Hold for 10-30 seconds then relax and rest head and arms.
This exercise helps to strengthen the spine extensor muscle that hold you upright, prevent you from slouching, and relieve stress off the spine bones.
The right exercises can also help to prevent falls. If these balance-challenging exercises are not prescribed, then you might be missing your opportunity to improve your gait steadiness and prevent falls. This exercise seems simple enough but is often surprisingly challenging.
Flamingo Exercise: Standing on one leg like a flamingo is a great, simple way to improve your balance. Practice in front of a mirror with a chair nearby to grab onto for safety. Squeeze the buttocks of the opposite leg you’re lifting up while making sure that your pelvis stays steady and does not shift. Try to hold it for 30 seconds with your eyes open. As your ability to stand on one leg improves, try closing your eyes or try moving your arms while standing on one leg.
When you master the flamingo, you’d be amazed how much easier things like walking and climbing stairs become. You’ll feel more confident and less fearful of falling as your balance improves.
These two simple exercises alone may be all that you need to help keep your bones healthy and safe. Remember, the wrong exercises can make you worse, but the right exercises can change your world.
- PM R. 2012 Nov;4(11):882-8
Specialist in Pain Management and Spine Rehabilitation