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Osteoporosis Exercise

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Weight-Bearing Exercises for Osteoporosis

If your doctor determines that it's not safe for you to perform high-impact weight-bearing exercises, he or she may recommend low-impact weight-bearing exercises that are less likely to cause fractures and also build and maintain bone density. These include:

  • Elliptical training machines
  • Low-impact aerobics
  • Stair-step machines
  • Walking (either outside or on a treadmill machine)

If you're new to exercise, or haven't exercised for awhile, you should aim to gradually increase your level of weight-bearing exercise to 30 minutes per day on most days of the week.

Muscle-Strengthening Exercises for Osteoporosis

Programs that maintain muscular strength can slow the loss of bone mineral density associated with osteoporosis, and may help prevent fall-related fractures. Examples of muscle-strengthening exercises include functional movements such as standing and rising on your toes, lifting your own body weight, and the use of equipment such as:

  • Elastic exercise bands
  • Free weights
  • Weight machines

Experts recommend performing strength-training exercises two to three days per week.

Nonimpact Activities for Osteoporosis

Certain nonimpact activities can improve your coordination, flexibility, and muscle strength and reduce your risk of falls and fractures while increasing your mobility and overall quality of life.

Balance exercises such as Tai Chi can strengthen your leg muscles, and help you stay steadier on your feet. Posture exercises can improve your carriage, reduce the "sloping" shoulders associated with osteoporosis, and decrease your risk of fractures, especially in the spine. Functional exercises can improve your ability to perform everyday activities such as getting in and out of bed and chairs, and climbing stairs.

Balance, posture, and functional exercises can be performed daily.

Nonimpact programs such as yoga and Pilates can improve strength, balance, and flexibility in people with osteoporosis. But some of the movements associated with these programs -- including forward-bending exercises -- can increase the risk of fracture. If you're interested in such programs, ask your physical therapist to tell you which movements are most likely to be beneficial or harmful.

Although exercise can benefit almost everyone with osteoporosis, it's important to remember that it's only one component of an overall treatment program. Other essential lifestyle recommendations include a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, maintaining a normal body weight, and avoiding tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption. You also may require osteoporosis medications to either build or maintain bone density. By working with your doctor, you can develop an osteoporosis treatment program that's right for you.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on October 17, 2014
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