Osteoporosis can be a bit confusing. On one hand, osteoporosis is a diagnosis that means your bones have lost a significant amount of density and are somewhat less strong than before. On the other hand, weight-bearing exercises are highly recommended for many people with osteoporosis. Seems contradictory. What’s the deal?
Well, to understand this recommendation, you have to take a step back and look at your body more generally. The same calcium that is used to make strong bones is also used for many other important things in your body like proper nerve function and making sure your heart beats correctly. When it comes to calcium, your bones have to DEMAND the calcium in order to maintain their density otherwise the other organs get most of it. Even worse, if there is a shortage of calcium in your blood, your body will take calcium from your bones so that your blood calcium does not drop.
So how do you DEMAND that your body prioritize some of that calcium for your bones?
Answer: weight-bearing exercises. Weight-bearing exercises are exercises that place healthy stress on your bones and send a message to your body to increase bone density and strengthen your bones. Here are some examples of weight-bearing exercises:
You’ll notice that these types of exercises require little to no equipment, are performed on your feet, and have some amount of healthy forceful impact on your bones. Most people with mild to moderate osteoporosis can tolerate this impact just fine. However, for people with more advanced osteoporosis, your physician will decide whether these types of high-impact exercises are safe. Even if you cannot tolerate high-impact exercises, there are a variety of low-impact weight-bearing exercises that will help keep your bones strong:
Walking at a normal speed (the softer the surface the better)
Fast walking on a treadmill
Exercising on an elliptical machine
Stair climber machine
Low impact aerobics
Whether high-impact or low-impact, exercise can help you keep your bones strong and slow the progression of osteoporosis.
How a Physical Therapist can help you
A licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy can create a safe and effective personalized exercise plan that focuses on keeping your bones as strong as possible. They can also evaluate and improve your balance in order to decrease your risk of falls.