Osteoporosis: Exercise to Keep Bones Strong

Don’t believe the myth: osteoporosis and bone loss are not a normal part of getting older. You can prevent them by eating right, exercising more, and taking medications for your bones if you need to.

Exercise and Osteoporosis

Exercise is important for both the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. Even if you’ve already been diagnosed with the condition, a regular workout program can keep you from losing more bone mass. Weight-bearing exercises are the most helpful, like walking, jogging, dancing, and tennis. These activities make your body work against gravity to keep you upright and moving, which makes bones stronger.

Exercise strengthens muscles, gives joints more support, and keeps your body flexible and limber. It also helps improve your balance, so you’re less likely to fall and break a bone.

If you’ve already had one fracture, staying active may help you recover faster and feel less pain. But always talk to your doctor before you start a new workout program and how to exercise after a fracture.

Your Job and Bone Mass

Somewhere between ages 30 and 40, many of us become less active because our jobs don’t require much movement. Once we pass 50, we tend to move around even less every day. This can be a big problem, especially if you have a higher chance of getting osteoporosis.

Even if your job is sedentary, you can still add in some physical activity throughout your day to help keep bones strong.

How important is it to be active? Some studies have shown that a marked decrease in physical activity, for example in people on bed rest for a long time, results in a big decline in bone mass. The problems can even show up in astronauts, who experience weightlessness for a long time.

When Exercise Can Be Bad for Bones

Interestingly, some evidence shows that too much exercise can lead to bone problems, too. Intense training can cause hormone imbalances, which can lead to lower bone mass, called osteopenia. This can be a problem for some young female athletes. A balance of exercise and recovery is crucial to keeping osteoporosis at bay.

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What Else Can I Do for Bone Health?

Ask your doctor how often you need to have a bone density test. Talk about other things you can do -- such as changing your diet -- to prevent more bone loss. You can also ask about any medications you take to see if they might be causing bone loss. On the other hand, ask if osteoporosis drugs might help you.

It’s important to start today to protect and strengthen your bones. Be sure to ask your doctor specific questions about the health of your bones. Then follow her recommendations for preventing the effects of osteoporosis.

What if I've Already Broken a Bone?

If you have already had a broken bone that wasn’t from a fall or other trauma, it is very important to talk with your doctor about osteoporosis prevention. It may actually turn out to be a good thing in the end if it prompts you to take action to strengthen your bones.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on April 21, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

International Osteoporosis Foundation: “Why Do People Shrink?”

FamilyDoctor.org: “Osteoporosis and Fracture/Once is Enough: A Guide to Preventing Fractures.”

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: "Osteoporosis: Peak Bone Mass in Women."

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force: "Screening for Osteoporosis."

National Osteoporosis Foundation: "Facts on Osteoporosis."

McIlwain, H., MD, and Bruce, D., PhD, Reversing Osteopenia: The Definitive Guide to Recognizing and Treating Early Bone Loss in Women of All Ages, Henry Holt, 2004.

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