At any age, exercise is essential for maintaining healthy bones. If you exercised regularly as a child and young adult, you probably helped maximize your bone production, most of which occurs by age 35. If you continued to exercise into middle age and beyond, you probably helped reduce your risk of developing the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis.
Real men get osteoporosis, too.
As many as 2 million American men already have osteoporosis, the bone thinning that makes bones brittle and porous and at likely to fracture. Twelve million men are at risk, and may have early signs of bone loss and low bone density, called osteopenia. But given that four times as many women have osteoporosis, men are less likely to end up with thin bones than women.
Why this lower risk?
"Women live longer, so they're more likely to get osteoporosis," says Paul...
Although people with osteoporosis may believe that exercise increases the risk of injury from broken bones, the truth is quite the opposite. A regular, properly designed exercise program may actually help prevent the falls and fall-related fractures that so often result in disability and premature death. That's because exercise strengthens bones and muscles, and improves balance, coordination, and flexibility, which is especially important for older adults and people who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis.
The type of exercises needs to be guided by your doctor and physical therapist. Your exercise prescription will be determined in part by: stage of osteoporosis, risk factors, exercise history, and weight.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, the best exercises for building and maintaining bone density are:
Weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, that makes you work against gravity while staying upright
Muscle-strengthening exercise, such as weight lifting, that makes you work against gravity in a standing, sitting, or prone position
Nonimpact activities such as balance, functional, and posture exercises also may benefit people with osteoporosis. Although these exercises don't build or maintain bone density, they may increase muscle strength and decrease the risk of falls and fractures.
Medical Evaluation Is Key
If you have osteoporosis or are at risk of osteoporosis, most experts believe that supervised weight-bearing exercise and strength training exercise is safe and effective. Studies of postmenopausal women report that aerobic, weight-bearing, and strength training exercise can increase bone mineral density in the spine, and that a simple walking program can increase bone mineral density in the spine and hip. However, if you are postmenopausal, inactive and diagnosed with moderate to severe (stage 3-4) osteoporosis, high impact activities or exercises could cause fractures.