Office for the Aging

 
 

May Is Osteoporosis Awareness Month

Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become thin, weak, and easier to break. It is often called a “silent disease.” You cannot feel or see your bones getting thinner. You may not even know that you have thin bones until a bone breaks. A broken bone can interfere with your daily activities and can have serious consequences. It is never too early or too late to take steps to promote strong bones for life.

Regular physical activity or exercise at any time in your life is good for your heart, muscle tone, flexibility, and coordination. Physical activity can build strength, improve both posture and body mechanics and also promote balance. As you get older, physical activity can help increase muscle mass to prevent falls and cushion your bones in the event of a fall.

One important action you can take for your bone health is to be physically active. You may want to speak with your health care provider before starting a physical activity program. This is especially important if you have or had a medical condition or if you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis and/or have a history of broken bones. Older adults, people with medical conditions, and those with physical disabilities may benefit from joining a supervised exercise program.

When you choose an exercise program, consider one that includes all 5 of the below exercises:

WEIGHT BEARING EXERCISE simply means that your legs and feet are supporting or carrying your weight. This type of exercise builds bone mass in youth and maintains it in adulthood. Some examples of weight-bearing exercises include walking, racquet sports, dancing, climbing stairs, and many team sports.

MUSCLE STRENGTHENING EXERCISE builds muscle that helps support your bones and may also improve or maintain your bone strength. Some examples are lifting weights, using resistance bands, and exercising on resistance machines. You can also swim or ride a bike to strengthen your muscles.

BALANCE EXERCISES are especially important for older adults to help prevent falls. Tai Chi is an example of a fun balance exercise.

POSTURAL TRAINING EXERCISE can promote correct posture and proper body alignment. These exercises can also help older adults minimize stooped posture resulting from osteoporosis. One example of a postural training exercise is to pull your shoulders back and tuck your chin in.

STRETCHING EXERCISE keeps your body flexible by lengthening muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Sit up tall while stretching your arms overhead with fingers interlocked is an example of a stretching exercise

To get the best benefit from physical activity and avoid any injury, follow safety guidelines. Some specific movements to AVOID during physical activity or daily activities include:

  • AVOID SPINAL FLEXION: Avoid forward bending/flexing of the spine during all exercises and any movements. When you bend your spine it puts undue stress on each of your back bones and could cause fractures. This would include movements where the back is curved too much like toe touches, curl sit-ups, and reaching for the floor with straight legs.
  • AVOID EXCESSIVE TWISTING: This is especially important when you are stand or sit because there is weight throughout the spine.
  • AVOID HEAVY LIFTING: Ask your physical therapist about the right body mechanics for lifting to prevent injury.

In addition, always follow safe activity guidelines, which include:

  • Exercise in a pain-free range of motion.
  • Exercise in your best posture.
  • Breathe through the exercise; do not hold your breath.
  • Exercise with smooth, steady movements.
  • Always keep a slight bend in arms and legs.

If you have had a broken bone or total hip replacement, follow the precautions your physician or physical therapist has given to you.

After muscle-building exercises, muscle soreness lasting a few days is common, but be aware of exercises that might be producing more long-term pain and consult your doctor about whether this exercise is right for you.

It is important to speak with your doctor, physical therapist, or health care provider about the best, safe exercises for you. Even if you are limited in the type or amount of exercise you can do, any safe exercise is better than no exercise!

Most fractures occur as a result of a fall, so avoid any exercise that increases the risk of a fall. Fall prevention should also include strengthening exercises, education about risk factors, home and outdoor modifications, and assessment of medications to minimize side effects.

The advice or information contained in this article should NOT be construed as medical advice. Consult with your health care provider about your individual exercise program.

For more information about Osteoporosis call the NYSOPEP office at (845) 786-4772 or visit the NYSOPEP website at www.nysopep.org.