Exercise is an important component of an osteoporosis prevention and treatment program. Not only will exercise improve your bone health, but it increases muscle strength, coordination, balance and leads to better overall health.
Like muscle, bone is living tissue that responds to exercise by becoming stronger. Young women and men who exercise regularly generally achieve greater peak bone mass (maximum bone density and strength) than those who do not. We have until the age of 25-35 to reach peak bone mass. After that time, we begin to lose bone. Women and men older than age 35 can slow bone loss with regular exercise.
The best exercise for your bones is weight-bearing exercise. This is exercise that forces you to work against gravity, such as walking, hiking, jogging, stair-climbing, tennis and dancing. Some examples of non-weight bearing exercises are swimming or bicycling. These exercises, as well as weight-bearing exercises, have excellent cardiovascular benefits.
If you have health problems such as heart trouble, high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity, or if you are over age 40, check with your doctor before you begin a regular exercise program.
Listen to your body. When starting an exercise routine you may have some muscle soreness and discomfort at the beginning, but this should not be painful or last more than 48 hours. If it does, you may be working too hard and need to ease up. STOP exercising if you have any chest pain of discomfort and see your doctor before your next exercise session.
If you have osteoporosis, it is important that you consult with your doctor to learn which activities are safe for you. If you have low bone mass, you probably should avoid high impact exercise in order to lower the risk of breaking a bone. You might also want to consult with an exercise specialist to learn the proper progression of activity and how to stretch and strengthen muscles safely, and to correct poor posture habits. An exercise specialist should have a degree in exercise physiology, physical education, physical therapy, or a similar specialty. Be sure to ask them if they are familiar with the special needs of patients with osteoporosis.
Remember, exercise is only one part of an osteoporosis prevention or treatment program. Like a calcium-rich diet, exercise is a strategy that helps strengthen bones at any age. But these approaches may not be enough to stop bone loss caused by lifestyle, medical conditions or menopause. It is important to speak with your doctor about medications that can help keep your bones strong.