Osteoporosis - Stop sticks and stones from breaking your bones with exercise!
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a common condition where the bones in the body gradually become weaker as they lose minerals such as calcium faster than the body can replace them. Over 1 million people in Australia have osteoporosis, with post-menopausal women being the most affected age group. Other things that can increase your risk of getting osteoporosis include: increasing age, family history of the condition, low vitamin D levels, low calcium intake, low body weight, smoking, excess alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, long-term corticosteroid use, and reduced oestrogen levels.
How is Osteoporosis diagnosed?
Osteoporosis is sometimes called the "silent disease", because it has no symptoms until a fracture occurs. Sometimes these fractures happen from just a small minor impact which raises the suspicion that the bone density may be low. Often your doctor will send your for a bone density scan (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan), where you are placed into a machine that accurately measures how strong and dense your bones are.
How is osteoporosis managed?
The best way to manage osteoporosis starts with lowering any risk factors that might apply to you. This involves reducing your alcohol consumption and smoking, increasing Vitamin D and calcium levels, and increasing your physical activity levels. There are also medications that your can take which work by making the cells that break down bone less active, while allowing the cells that form new bone to remain active. Special types of exercises can also be used to help strengthen your bones.
How does Exercise help Osteoporosis?
Whilst increasing your physical activity levels can help prevent osteoporosis, not all exercises are made equal when it comes to increasing bone mass once you have it. Exercises that are osteogenic help to increase bone density, and are usually weight bearing type exercises that have an impact on the body. These types of exercise can also slow down the rate at which bone mineral density decreases over time when compared to no exercise
Progressive Resistance training with bands and weights that get harder over time, are one of the main types of osteogenic exercises that our Exercise Physiologists prescribe for people with osteoporosis. This has been shown to consistently help increase bone density, but performing high repetitions of light weights are not as effective as a low repetitions of very heavy weights. It's important then to determine the right amount of weights to start training at to ease into the program, but also be heavy enough to stimulate bone density growth.