Better Bones: Fighting Osteoporosis with Exercise

By Lucy Wyndham

A number of scientific studies have shown that exercise can increase the mineral content in bones, making it an effective treatment therapy against osteoporosis. Figures indicate that 2.4 million South African adults over the age of 50 have Osteoporosis and alarmingly around 30% of hip fracture patients will die within a year. Furthermore, around 50% will never recover full functionality, according to research by the National Osteoporosis Foundation of South Africa. There is good news however: excessive weight and high-impact routines can maximise muscle and bone development. Read on to learn more about how to reverse osteoporosis.

What type of exercise should you consider

Bones are living tissue, and like muscles they respond positively to weight and impact exercises that help to strengthen them. Weight-bearing exercises are exercises you do on your feet so that your bones and muscles must work against gravity to keep you upright. Your bones react to the weight on them by building themselves up and getting stronger.

Good weight-bearing high-impact exercise

Good high-impact exercises include brisk walking, climbing stairs and most forms of dancing. As your fitness and strength improves you may consider taking exercise to the next level and trying out hiking, jogging or jump rope exercises. A solid core is important as it provides strength and solidity for your body. Exercise like Pilates can improve your balance and posture by strengthening muscles in your abdomen, pelvis, back and shoulders. You should focus on Pilate routines that concentrate on improving strength in your hips, legs and shoulders. Some safe Pilates movements to consider include single and double leg kicks, leg pulls and circles, as well as push-ups and chest expansions. All of these movements improve strength in vital areas without risk of damage to the body.

Resistance training with dumbbells or elastic-resistance bands and machines improve strength and you can do this exercise as effectively at home with your own set of dumbbells, as you can in a gym. This form of exercise is proven to be an effective form of therapy for this condition. Tai Chi can improve your balance and help reduce the chance of falling. You can develop your own exercise programme that includes weight-bearing and strength training whilst also improving balance and flexibility.

Exercises to avoid if you have osteoporosis

Scientific and health research supports weight bearing high-impact exercises for osteoporosis, but not all exercise is good and it is important to know which exercises you should avoid. Exercise that involves twisting, falling or sudden forced movements can lead to bone fractures. Activities such as golf, sit-ups, jumping exercises that can jar the spine, oblique twists, lumber rolls and skiing should rather be avoided.

The right supplements like Vitamin C and D, and eating the right foods that provide a healthy balanced and nutritional diet are important. Equally important is exercise: together all three can improve the quality of life for those living with osteoporosis.

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