Osteoporosis is a bone disease defined as low bone mass or the deterioration of bone tissue. This condition can cause frail and weak bones, which increases the risk for injuries and falls, contributing to the nearly two million broken bones reported in America each year for individuals over age 50.
Bones are in a constant state of renewal until about age 30 when most people reach their peak bone mass. From this point on, bone mass is lost at a faster rate than it is created. As we get older, any bone injuries can result in a higher risk for immobility and pain or even limited daily movements and loss of independence.
Regular exercise is one lifestyle factor that is necessary for bone growth and maintenance. Even individuals who have lost bone mass may be able to preserve what they have and reduce the rate of loss with regular exercise. The added benefit is better balance, improved fitness and a lower risk of falls, breaks or fractures.
The most important component of the exercise program for osteoporosis prevention and maintenance is the strength-training exercises. Because these type of exercises are spot specific, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends full-body strength-training exercises two to three days per week. Strength training has a localized effect on bones, meaning that the muscles being worked have an effect on the bones where those working muscles attach. In other words, weighted biceps curls will strengthen the bones in the arm, not the spine or the hips.
It's never too late to improve your bone health and enhance your quality of life. Building as much bone density before age 30 is ideal, but if you are older or have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, ACSM recommends adding endurance-based aerobic activity, like walking, 4-5 days a week for 30 to 60 minutes each session. When you walk, you are bearing your own weight, which contributes to stronger bones.
Additional guidelines for individuals diagnosed with osteoporosis include:
- Omit exercises that flex the spine (bending forward at the waist) if you are diagnosed with osteoporosis in the spine. This means omitting crunches and abdominal curls.
- Avoid pulling the neck forward if hands are placed behind the head.
- Omit exercises that promote excessive lumbar hyperextension.
- Avoid activities or movements that increase the risk for falling like high impact, jarring, jumping or jogging activities and exercise.
Missy Corrigan is executive of community health for Sumter Family YMCA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (803) 773-1404.
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