How to Stay Strong to Prevent Fractures from Osteoporosis

Senior Woman Lifting Weights

Have you been told you have osteoporosis? You’re definitely not alone! Osteoporosis Canada recently released statistics showing that 1 in 3 Canadian women and 1 in 5 Canadian men will break a bone at some point in their life because of osteoporosis.  Also, most alarming is that osteoporosis is more common than heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined! (1)

There isn't a cure for osteoporosis however, an appropriate EXERCISE   program is part of osteoporosis treatment. A Practicing Kinesiologist, can  help you improve your back extension strength, hip and leg strength, bone strength and manage your osteoporosis so that you can live without fear of falling or fracturing your bones.

The medical term for "strength of bones" is called Bone Mineral Density (BMD). Research shows that BMD decreases naturally by 1-2% and 2-4% for males and females respectively, so it is great news that we can slow these rates down by completing the recommended exercise. But what is recommended?

Strength Training Recommendations for Osteoporosis Exercises

It is great to see that strength training is now a component of exercise that has been proven to be beneficial for osteoporosis treatment. Strength training involves using a form of resistance such as body weight or an external resistance to create tension through your muscles, which loads the bones, therefore slowing down the reduction of BMD. Resistance training also increases muscular strength and improves balance (1,2,3).

Strength training now important part of #osteoporosis exercise programs!

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Osteoporosis Canada and researchers at the University of Waterloo developed a program called “Too Fit to Fracture” to assist individuals to manage their osteoporosis through EXERCISE! There are tips on what exercise you should perform, possible barriers to exercise you may experience, progressions of exercises, how to keep track of your progress and also what movements are not recommended because doing them puts you at a higher risk for fracture.

There are also some very good video guides that give examples of how to  modify activities like golf so that you can continue to enjoy them. The videos show people with various severities of osteoporosis.  Exercise recommendations include aerobic training, strength training for the upper and lower body, balance and posture training.

Cardiovascular exercises like swimming and cycling are good for heart, but are not weight bearing. Walking, running, stair climbing, hiking are all good examples of weight bearing aerobic activities that have the potential to increase your BMD.

Home Strength Exercises for Osteoporosis Treament and to Prevent Falls

Now that we know the benefit of exercise for osteoporosis, why not get started today? Here are some exercises that will assist you if you have osteoporosis. These have also been prescribed in the Osteoporosis "Too Fit to Fracture" Canadian program.

They are simple enough for beginners as well as those with more severe osteoporosis and are more fragile.  These are starting points with guided progressions.  

5  Beginner Home Strength and Balance Exercises for Osteoporosis

A Kinesiologist will coach you on these exercises as well as guide you towards more challenging levels.  The goals of an exercise program for osteoporosis are:

  1.   Work on building muscle to protect your bones.
  2.  Provide you with challenging balance exercises to improve your coordination to reduce your risk of falls.
  3.  Increase muscular endurance to improve your posture to lower your risk of spine fracture.  Stand taller and move with more strength - also boosts confidence.

    1. Walking or Stair Climbing

    • Complete most days of the week for 30 minutes at a moderate intensity of 5-8/10 intensity. 
    • If 30 minutes seems too much at once, remember you can break up the activity into two lots of 15 minute bursts throughout the day.

    Tip: With walking, remember heel to toe movement. Keep chest high and lift feet off the floor. When stair climbing, hold onto the rail if you are unsteady. For variety, do 15 minutes of stair walking and 15 minutes of walking!

    2. Squats or Sit-to Stands for Leg Strength

    • ​Complete 2-3 days per week for 8-12 repetitions
    • To complete a squat, stand upright, keep your weight through your heels, stick your bottom out backwards and hinge your upper body forward, keeping knees behind the toes.
    • Practice by sitting on a chair and standing up (sit-to-stand). Progress from the chair to standing, then add mass as you feel you are getting the movement right. You can hug the mass to your chest.

    Tip: You can use a 1kg bag of flour, soup cans, hand weights for mass increase

    3. Split Lunge for Balance and Leg Strength

    • ​Complete 2-3 days per week for 8-12 repetitions
    • Stand in a split stance, one foot in front of the other about hip width apart. To complete a lunge, drop the back knee close to the floor, so that your front knee is at a 90-degree angle. Only go as low as comfortable.

    Tip: Hold onto a bench for balance if needed

    4. Wall Push-Ups for Arm Strength

    • ​Complete 2-3 days per week for 8-12 repetitions
    • Place your hands on the wall at shoulder height and at shoulder width apart. Keep your chest upright, shoulders back and lower your chest into the wall.
    • Keeping controlled, push yourself back to upright without locking your elbows.

    Tip: Start by completing wall push ups, then once this gets too easy, move your feet further away from the wall, progress to a push up on your knees and then onto your toes.

    5. Standing Toe Taps or Single Leg Balance

    • Stand upright, hold your shoulders back and keep your head up tall during all balance exercises so that you are working on your posture
    • Complete these exercises daily
    • Toe Tapping: Holding onto a bench for balance, alternate your left and right foot in the following sequence; forwards, backwards and sideways.
    • Single Leg Balance: Holding onto a bench for balance, lift your left foot 6 inches off the floor and repeat with your right foot.

    Tip: Focus on one spot on the wall to assist in balance. Once you feel comfortable, use only two fingers as a support on the bench, then gradually lift entire hand off the bench so you are challenging your balance further!

    One last tip:

    Keep smiling and enjoy exercise, it is not meant to be a chore, have fun with it!

References

  1. Osteoporosis Canada. Osteoporosis Facts and Statistics.http://www.osteoporosis.ca/osteoporosis-and-you/osteoporosis-facts-and-statistics/. Accessed February 9, 2016
  2. Raastad, T., Kvernvik, KJ., Johansen, M.A., Running, A., Dullerud, R., Kvamme, N., Solberg, P and Gautvik, K.M. (2015) Marked Improvement in Physical Function through Gains in Muscle Strength and Thigh Muscle Size after Heavy Load Strength Training in Women with Established Postmenopausal Osteoporosis. Journal of Osteoporosis and Physical Activity 3:136.
  3. Layne, J.E., Nelson, M.E., (1999). The effects of progressive resistance training on bone density: a review. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 31(1):25-30.

Laura Holland

Practicing Kinesiologist Laura is an Australian trained Exercise Physiologist. Her Masters degree research assisted the military in redesigning their fitness programs. She has a special interest in work conditioning and neurological conditions. Laura loves a good cup of tea at the end of the day.