Osteoporosis and Exercise: Is It Possible?

13 August, 2020
When a person suffers from osteoporosis, they have to exert caution. Any fall or force can lead to a fracture. Here we'll teach you how to stay safe.
 

We’ve all heard of osteoporosis. We know, in general, what it means, but it’s likely that we haven’t done a deep dive into the pathology of the disease. We don’t pay it much attention unless it affects us our a family member. So what is it, exactly?  Is it possible to be physically active and exercise when you have osteoporosis? How can we better our health in an active and safe way?

Osteoporosis

We should begin by speaking briefly about what this illness is. Osteoporosis is a pathology principally characterized by the loss of bone density. 

Inside, our bones are made up of a solid mesh of tissues that makes them strong. However, this mesh can gradually degenerate. There are certain factors that can speed up its deterioration, such as advanced age, menopause, a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, and certain medications. The most prevalent sign that you’re losing solidity in this internal mesh is that your bones begin to fracture more easily.

The functionality of bone tissue

It’s important to include a brief aside to get to know how our bones work. Bone tissue is alive. That’s to say, old tissue becomes absorbed, and new, healthy, stronger tissue continuously replaces it.

For this cycle to function adequately, in addition to ingesting certain elements such as calcium, we also have to ensure that our cells are working. The tension and compression that bone experiences when we exercise makes the bone cells more active and promote the continuity of the cycle. On the contrary, in the case of osteoporosis, the body is no longer creating new bone tissue.

 

That begs the question if it’s necessary to exercise so that your bones don’t lose so much density? But, if at the same time, your bones are more fragile, what do you do?

Osteoporosis and exercise

The answers to the previous questions are simple: do low impact exercises. However, it’s true that there are different levels. To prevent the apparition of this illness, almost any exercise is positive. Doing high-impact exercise can increase the maximum bone mineral quantity that we have throughout our lives.

Bone density and osteoporosis

In case you’re part of a risk group, you have to proceed with caution. And if you’ve already been diagnosed with osteoporosis, you have to be extremely cautious.

  • In the case of healthy people, we can -and should- run, practice sports, go to the gym, etc. Any exercise that makes us move, compress, and stretch our bones will help us ward off this illness.
  • In the second case, for those who form part of the risk group, it’s recommended to complete aerobic exercises with low weights and elastic bands.
  • Finally, if you’ve already been diagnosed with osteoporosis, we’re limited to walking a lot and doing gentle exercises that work on balance. We can also do low-impact aerobic exercises and use gym machines such as the elliptical.
 

Obviously, the recommendation for this last case is perfectly applicable to both of the previous cases as well. Likewise, the first case can also be recommended for the second, but not the other way around. In other words, people with a certain risk factor can’t do any type of exercise. 

Osteoporosis and exercise: the importance of balance

We have to put a special emphasis on exercises that increase balance or proprioception. These types of exercises not only help to prevent falls, which are the primary cause of fractures but also help to improve your posture. This helps protect the spinal column.

It’s better to prevent than to treat

The prevalence of osteoporosis usually shows up around the age of 50. That means it’s beneficial to start doing tests to detect the initial signs of this illness. That way we can better understand which level we’re in, and which types of exercise are better for us.

With regard to this, it’s especially relevant to go to the doctor. In the case that you already have beginning signs of osteoporosis or already established osteoporosis, you’d need to visit the physical therapist. This professional can advise which specific exercises to do and which to avoid. They can give each person concrete advice depending on their specific circumstances.

The benefits of walking
 

Osteoporosis and exercise: walk!

Finally, to summarize, sports aren’t only important to confront osteoporosis. Osteoporosis and sports go hand-in-hand. The only point that we have to keep in mind is which exercises we do. We shouldn’t do strenuous exercises or ones with a lot of weight, and we must work on our balance to prevent falls.

The most simple way to do all of this is one of the first things we learn to do as human beings: walk. Walking works on our posture, balance, and works a large part of our body’s musculature. It’s recommended for all ages and practically all situations.

 
  • A. Klibanski, L. Adams-Campbell, T. Bassford, et al. Osteoporosis prevention, diagnosis, and therapy. Journal of the American Medical Association. Volume 285, Issue 6, Pages 785-795. 2001.
  • C. Nordin. Calcium and osteoporosis. Nutrition. Volume 13, Issues 7–8, Pages 664-686. 1997.
  • J. A. Todd, R. J. Robinson. Osteoporosis and exercise. Postgraduate Medical Journal. Volume 79, Pages 320-323. 2003.