Although osteoporosis patients are advised to avoid certain physical activities, this does not mean that they should be sedentary. In fact exercise is an essential component of managing osteoporosis in the long term. However, it is important for the osteoporosis patient to be educated about the types of physical activities that are acceptable and helpful. It is just as important to know which activities should be avoided on a regular basis or sometimes altogether to avoid unnecessary complications.
Physical activities that place excessive strain on the already weakened bones or sports with a high risk of falls and serious injuries should be avoided. These activities may lead to fractures, which in the osteoporosis patient does not heal fully or properly at times thereby leading to lifelong complications. Although many patients who have osteoporosis may wish to take up a sport in an attempt to integrate fun with physical activity, the type of sport is a very important consideration.
Running around, jumping and being exposed to other people or situations where there is a risk of injuries and falls are sports that should be avoided. This includes football, soccer, basketball, competitive running and various contact sports. It is not that these sports would not be beneficial in osteoporosis. However, the associated risk of falls and injuries means that it is best to avoid such sporting activities on a regular basis and definitely not partake of it on a competitive basis.
Even sports that appear low risk take on a new dimension in the elderly where age-related changes in the body may affect coordination, muscle strength and stability. This is exacerbated further in the back drop of chronic diseases like Parkinson’s disease or complications of diabetes which are conditions more likely to be seen in seniors.
The key to exercises that are beneficial in osteoporosis is weight bearing activities. By applying force on the bones, it is stimulated to increase its bone mineral density and therefore the overall strength. Weight bearing activities involves movements against the pull of gravity and the action of the muscles thereby placing force on the bones.
This includes activities such as :
There are various other activities like some of the sports mentioned above, skiing and skating, which are also weight bearing exercises. However, these activities are best kept to a minimum or avoided altogether due to the risk of injuries and falls.
The elderly are usually less inclined to take up strenuous sporting activities and require the cardiovascular benefits of exercise. Therefore it is important to choose physical activities that incorporate the benefits of both weight bearing and cardiovascular into the regimen without opting for risky activities. Swimming and cycling are two exercises that have excellent cardiovascular benefits but are not weight bearing activities.
It is important to realize that osteoporosis is not the only condition that may be present at the same time. Other more common conditions involving the cardiovascular system in particular can be life threatening when the body is under extreme physical strain. It is therefore important to get medical approval before commencing with any exercise program.
As with the beneficial effects of exercise for any health related concern, the key is regular workouts. The activity of choice should be carried out for about 30 minutes per day and at least 4 times a week. It is important to use appropriate footwear and other sporting apparatus where necessary to avoid strain, injuries and falls. Exercising in suitable surroundings like a gym and with the guidance of a personal trainer are also preferable.