When you have osteoporosis you worry that you have ‘delicate bones’ and you need to be ‘careful’ … so you do less and less to ‘protect’ yourself from osteoporotic fractures. You may walk and do aerobics and think that you are helping yourself but really this is not enough!
You should be weightlifting, as recent studies have shown that strength training over a period of time can prevent bone loss, prevent osteoporosis related fractures and may even build new bone.
The worst thing you can do when you are osteoporotic is to fall over – you are at a higher risk of fractures. However, as osteoporosis often affects us as we get older – that is when we tend to lose our balance more often.
In one study, postmenopausal women who took part in a programme of strength training for a year showed significant increase in their bone density, both in their spine and hips, which are the areas most affected by osteoporosis in women.
Weight training promotes increased muscle strength and aids balance and co-ordination and thus helps to prevent falls and therefore the fractures that often result.
“We lose so much muscle as we age that by the time we’re 70, we only have about 50% to 55% of our muscle mass left,” according to Beatrice Edwards, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine and director of the Bone Health and Osteoporosis Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “That explains why we feel weak and tired as we age, and we can prevent some of that with weight training.”
The best exercises for osteoporosis are those that focus on the back and the hip.
These include hip extension, hip abduction and adduction, and hip flexion — anything that works around the hip. A great exercise to do at home is to sit on a bench or chair with 5-pound weights strapped to each ankle then “march” in place, lifting one knee after the other. But it would be a good idea to come in to see us at the Avenue Clinic so that we can watch you do the exercise – you need to make sure you are sitting up straight and bracing gently .. you need to do an exercise correctly to really get the most out of it. You need to think about these things to gain the most from weight training exercises.
- Consult a certified personal trainer, you need to do strength training two to three times a week, with at least one day of rest between each session (especially if you’re working the same muscles at each session).
- Do one exercise for each major muscle group, for a total of eight to 12 different exercises. Do one or two sets of eight to 10 repetitions for each exercise.
- Lift the weight slowly; lift to a count of four and lower to a count of four, which reduces the likelihood of injury while helping to recruit the muscle better.
- Don’t use other muscles to compensate. You should only be moving the muscle you’re supposed to be moving!
- Tighten abdominal muscles to help protect your spine.
- Periodically consult with a trainer about increasing the amount of weight you lift as you become stronger.