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Michael Wood, St. Luke's Hospital

Exercising with osteoporosis

Getting regular exercise is a great way to strengthen your bones and prevent osteoporosis. Even if you already have osteoporosis, exercise can help maintain the bone mass you still have.

Osteoporosis affects at least 40 percent of postmenopausal women and is common in people over age 50. This bone-weakening disorder often causes hip and spine fractures, greatly limiting an individual's mobility and independence.

Women who have been physically active their entire lives generally have stronger bones than those who tend to be more sedentary in nature, but it is never too late to begin exercising. For postmenopausal women, regular exercise is important for increasing muscle strength, improving balance, improving posture and increasing your ability to carry out the tasks of your daily life.

If you have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis, it is important to talk with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Try to incorporate physical activities you enjoy into your program. This way, you will be much more likely to stick with it over time. Several types of exercise are recommended for those with osteoporosis, including:
  • general strength training to build up the muscles and bones, especially in the upper back
  • weight-bearing aerobic activities to help minimize further bone mineral loss
  • flexibility exercises to keep the motion you have
  • stability and balance activities to limit the risk of falls
Activities to be cautious of include high-impact activities such as jumping rope, running and any fast or jerking movements, as these can lead to fractures in your weak bones. Also, it is generally best to avoid stretches that cause excessive bending at the waist, such as touching your toes, because this can lead to compression fractures of the spine. Stretching should be done gently, slowly and without bouncing.

If you are not sure how healthy your bones are, talk with your doctor. Your physical therapist can also help you identify a safe exercise program.

Michael Wood is a physical therapist with Brain and Spine Therapy Services at St. Luke's Hospital. Call 314-205-6551 or visit the Brain and Spine Therapy Services page.

This article was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on December 12, 2013.

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