Exercise is recognised as one of the most effective strategies for improving bone strength and density, minimising the risk of fracture and injury.
This is certainly true for those at risk of Osteoporosis and fracture, particularly women post menopause and the older population.
Research studies looking at exercise and bone health have shown that:
- Children who participate in weight bearing exercise have a higher bone density compared to more sedentary children.
- Adults who participate in weight bearing exercises have the ability to continue to improve bone density, slowing age related bone density loss.
- Hip fractures have been found to be as much as 38-45% lower in older adults who have been physically active in their daily life, compared to less active people.
So why exactly do bones weaken?
Well, when we place less ‘stress‘ on bones (weight bearing activities), they weaken and bone density decreases.
When we load our bones, there is a response from the bone called “osteogenic loading“, which stimulates bone building cells to do their job properly, and bone density increases.
On the flip side, if we unload our bones and rest, the bone building cells won’t do their job properly, and the bone weakens. This might happen if we are on bed-rest, or lead a sedentary lifestyle.
If you don’t use it, you lose it.
So what exercises should you be doing?
As always, it depends.
However, some exercises are better than others.
What we call “Osteogenic” exercises are best because they are most effective at creating bone density improvements.
They include brisk walking, weighted exercises, impact jumping & landing.
It’s hard to provide specifics around exercise, because everyone is different.
However, here are some general guidelines to consider:
- Complete exercises that challenge you (e.g lift something heavier than you usually would at home).
- Prioritise weight bearing exercise (e.g brisk walking, gym based weights, jumping & landing).
- Aim to exercise between 3-5 times per week at an intensity that is challenging.
- Progressively increase the load and intensity over time (start small and build over time).
- Focus on balance and strength.
- Engage the help of an Exercise Physiologist who can provide a tailored exercise program.
If you have Osteoporosis, or are at risk of a fracture, find an Exercise Physiologist before you start.
That way, you can feel safe knowing you are completing an exercise program that is specific to your needs.
An Exercise Physiologist will help to prescribe Osteogenic exercises (exercises that are best at loading the bones) relevant to your age and other health considerations.
The most important thing to remember is, Exercise Is Medicine! Something is better than nothing, you just have to get started.