Exercise for osteoporosis and bone health

Michael Ferma
SENIOR EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGIST & TEAM PERFORMANCE MANAGER
3
Minutes to read

The role of Exercise for Osteoporosis and Bone Health

 

As we begin to age we are often lead to believe that we should “slow down” or choose “low impact” style exercise to keep us healthy and active. A sign of ageing can be the gradual reduction of bone mineral density that can lead to conditions such as Osteopenia and Osteoporosis.

 

Osteoporosis as defined by the Australian Institute of Health and Wellness (AIHW) is a ‘condition that causes bones to become thin, weak and fragile’. This could mean that we can become more susceptible to fractures and other bone related issues.This occurs due to the loss of bone mineral density as we begin to lose minerals such as calcium faster than our body can replace them. Osteopenia is identified as the stage of bone loss that is before Osteoporosis.

 

In 2018 it is estimated that 924,000 Australian’s were given a diagnosis of Osteoporosis (ABS,2018). However, many Australian’s go undiagnosed until there is a fracture present. Osteoporosis is more common in woman than it is men, which could be due to a range of factors including hormone changes, smoking, alcohol consumption, family history, body composition and physical inactivity (Ebeling et al. 2013).

 

How can Exercise Physiology assist my bones?

After a new diagnosis of Osteoporosis or recovering post a recent fracture, a return to movement and exercise can be quite daunting. As an Exercise Physiologist we are qualified to prescribed exercise for individuals with conditions such as Osteopenia and Osteoporosis.

Contrary to previous beliefs that when we age we should look to do low impact style exercise, research suggests that ‘weight-bearing exercise, especially resistance exercise, appears to have the greatest effects on bone mineral density’ (Warburton, 2006). This style of exercise is not only important for when we age, but also throughout our life. Warburton (2006) outlined that several cross-sectional reports revealed that people who did resistance training had increased bone mineral density compared with those who did not do such training. This suggest that introducing resistance based training into your exercise regime can assist with the maintenance of bone mineral density.

When comparing resistance style training to low impact stretching activities, Liu-Ambrose et al. (2004) found that there was a 1.4% increase in cortical bone density at the radial shaft (forearm) with resistance exercise compared to a loss of cortical bone density in the stretching group. This suggest that the benefits of resistance training can assist with maintaining bone mineral density and reduce the risk of fractures.

Exercise for bone health does not need to be scary. One of my favourite ways to begin to promote weight-bearing and impact style exercise for those with Osteoporosis is to prescribe clients with incidental exercises for bone health. If you see a set of stairs, STOMP up those stairs. Make sure you can hear your footsteps. Create that forceful contact with the ground.

 

What can I do now?

As stated above, exercise for bone health does not need to be scary. Once you’ve had a consultation with your doctor in relation to safety of exercise for you, we, as exercise professionals, can create a safe and easy to understand program for you to complete at home or in a gym environment. If you would like further help we can arrange supervised exercise sessions to help build your confidence and reach all those goals you have planned. Reach out today to get started.

References: 

ABS (AustralianBureau of Statistics) 2018. National Health Survey: First Results,2017–18. ABS cat. no.4364.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.2021. Osteoporosis, What is osteoporosis? - Australian Institute ofHealth and Welfare. [online] Available at:<https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-musculoskeletal-conditions/osteoporosis/contents/what-is-osteoporosis>[Accessed 2 June 2021].

Ebeling, P., Daly, R., Kerr, D. and Kimlin, M.,2013. Building healthy bones throughout life: an evidence‐informed strategy to prevent osteoporosis in Australia. Medical Journal of Australia,199(S7).

Warburton, D., 2006. Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. Canadian Medical Association Journal,174(6), pp.801-809.

 

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