Exercise or physical activity is highly recommended as the first defense in the prevention of osteoporosis 8,45. Exercise not only provides benefits in its potential to reduce bone loss but also in its ability to increase muscle strength which has profound benefits in the reduction of falls 8,21,47. Bones and muscles alike respond to loads and physical stresses placed on the body by increasing in size and strength 8,45. One of the biggest benefits gained from exercise is the stimulation of bone growth and preservation of bone mass through an increase in bone mineral density 26,8,21,47. Regular exercise can reduce the risk of falling by as much as 25 percent 8. The two best ways to gain the benefits of exercise is to combine both weight bearing exercise with resistance training 8,37.
Adherence to an exercise program is the key to success 7,15. Individuals who are likely to follow through with an exercise program are those who are already in relatively good health despite low bone mineral density 7,21. It is advisable that individuals meet with exercise experts in order to develop a program which ensures long term adherence 26,7,17.
Weight Bearing Exercise:
Weight bearing exercises are those which require muscles to work against gravity 26,8,47. Examples include:
- weight lifting
- stair climbing
- step aerobics
Not only do these and other activities increase bone density but they also contribute to an increase in balance, strength, posture, and posture stability, which help with the prevention of falls 8,21,37,9. Moderate intensity is recommended for older individuals or those with established osteoporosis since excessive exercise could possibly lower bone mineral density or cause a fracture 47,22,9. Rowing is an activity that increases bone mineral density in the spine of experienced female rowers 30,35.
Some activities that may be too vigorous include:
- high impact aerobics
- jumping rope
Other activities such as bike riding and swimming do have health benefits but do not provide the physical stressors needed to illicit bone growth or the preservation of bone mass 22,15.
Resistance training is a great way to strengthen the muscles of the body along with the bones to which they attach 26,47. The recommended amount of exercise for muscle conditioning is two times a week for a minimum of 15 minutes per session 47,40. It is advisable for beginners to start an exercise program with light weights and focus on proper technique. Resistance may then gradually be increased using minimal increments 47,22,24,50. The resistance training program should focus on exercises that utilized high resistance with low repetitions 22,13.
Summary and Tips for Exercise:
- Lift weights slowly to maximize range of motion and reduce the risk of injury.
- Give the body enough time between workouts to recover, every third day is adequate.
- Avoid exercises that place undue stress on the bones.
- Vary the routine to make it more interesting and increase the likeliness of program adherence.
Exercise should be part of a comprehensive treatment plan and should be used in conjunction with other treatment methods; it should not replace them 7,22,9. The results from an exercise program will diminish if the program is discontinued 21,15,3.