May is National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month. Over 53 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with osteoporosis or are at risk for osteoporosis due to low bone mass. Osteoporosis is defined as a disease which weakens the bones so they become fragile and break easily. It is especially prevalent in the bones of the hip, spine, and wrist. Often, osteoporosis is a “silent” disease because the person does not exhibit symptoms or knows he/she has it until a bone is broken or the vertebrae in the spine collapse.
While anyone is susceptible to osteoporosis, it is more common in older women, especially non-Hispanic white women and Asian women. Other risk factors include being small and thin, having low bone density, taking certain medications, and having a family history of osteoporosis. Bone mass can be tested with a bone mineral test.
There are a few ways you can prevent osteoporosis and keep your bones strong, such as consuming a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, exercising, not smoking, and not drinking alcohol excessively. Falls are the number one cause of broken bones, so weight bearing exercise and balance are extremely important to prevent falls and to increase bone density. If bones become extremely fragile, fractures can also occur through normal daily activities, such as bending, lifting, coughing, or from minor bumps or stresses.
Exercise improves bone health, muscle strength, coordination, balance, and overall health, and it is vital for treating and preventing osteoporosis. Weight-bearing and strength training exercises are both recommended for peak bone mass because you are working against gravity. Weight-bearing exercises include weight training, hiking, jogging, walking, stair climbing, dancing, and tennis. They can be either low impact or high impact. Strength training is also known as resistance exercise, and it includes lifting weights, using bands and balls, and utilizing your own body weight. Yoga and pilates are also great options since they improve flexibility, balance, and strength, but certain positions will need to be avoided to avoid spinal injury.
Consult a doctor before beginning any type of exercise program, especially if you have osteoporosis. You may have to avoid bending, twisting, and flexing to protect your spine if your bone mass is low. Additionally, high-intensity exercises should be avoided to avoid fractures. It is important to stretch and strengthen the muscles properly and to improve posture. It is good idea to consult with a personal trainer to learn how to perform exercises properly and how to progress your activities and routines.
By Denise Groothuis MS RD CPT
The National Institutes of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases ~
NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseaseshttps://www.nof.org/patients/fracturesfall-prevention/exercisesafe-movement/osteoporosis-exercise-for-strong-bones/ (National Osteoprosis Foundation)