At Westchester Health, we see a lot of osteoporosis-related fractures, particularly in our orthopedic group, Westchester Health Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. These fractures are most commonly of the hip, wrist or spine, affecting men and women of all races but white and Asian women, especially over the age of 50, are at highest risk. One of our orthopedic specialists, Michael A. Gott, MD, has written a very informative blog advising both men and women how they can proactively try to prevent, or at least lessen, the onset of osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a degenerative disease that causes bones to become weak and brittle—so brittle, in fact, that a fall or simply bending over or coughing can result in painful fractures and immobility.
Some facts about osteoporosis
- Family history: Osteoporosis tends to run in families. If your mother had a hip fracture, you are at risk for osteoporosis.
- Gender: Women are four times more likely than men to develop osteoporosis.
- Age: The risk of osteoporosis increases with age, but anyone of any age can have osteoporosis.
- Bone structure and body weight: Small-boned thin women and men have a greater risk of developing osteoporosis.
- Lost a lot of weight: Substantial weight loss after age 50 in women also seems to increase the risk of hip fractures.
- History of fractures: Having one fracture increases the chance of more fractures.
- Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of fractures because it lowers bone densities.
- Medications: Some medications may increase your risk of osteoporosis including long-term use of steroids (prednisone), thyroid drugs, anticonvulsants, antacids, and other drugs.
8 weight-bearing exercises that can help prevent, or slow, osteoporosis
Something we strongly advise for all of our patients with osteoporosis is to engage in weight-bearing exercises and strength training as often as possible. Weight-bearing exercises cause your body to resist gravity and actually stimulate cells that create new bone. Strength training causes the muscles to pull on the bone, which results in increased bone strength. Strength training also increases flexibility and reduces the likelihood of falling—the #1 risk factor for hip fracture.
Here are 8 easy, effective weight-bearing and strengthening exercises that can help keep your bones strong and prevent, or at least slow done, osteoporosis:
- Walk briskly: If you’re able to walk at a quick pace (even for short periods), your bones will benefit. Three short walks a day are as good as one long one. Brisk walking is also good for your heart health. If you’re concerned about tripping and falling, a treadmill is a good alternative.
- Gardening: Carrying a watering can, weeding, planting, picking up sticks raking leaves and doing other yard work can help you build muscle tone and strength. However, be aware that most spine fractures occur while bending forward so keep your spine straight and avoid twisting at the waist.
- Dancing: Dancing raises your pulse and strengthens your heart, muscles and bones. Because you need to remember various steps and sequences, dancing is also a workout for the brain.
- Lifting weights: Lifting weights or using resistance equipment at a gym will build bone and muscle mass at the same time. Aim to work each major muscle group twice a week with at least 1 day of rest in between. If you’re new to lifting weights, check with your doctor first and work with a trainer to learn proper form.
- Aerobics: High-impact classes will strengthen bones that are stable enough to handle the force. Low-impact aerobics are a safer, healthier choice for people with more severe osteoporosis. No-impact classes, such as water aerobics, may be the best choice for those who have already had a fracture.
- Swimming: Swimming is a good option when severe osteoporosis or arthritis makes weight-bearing exercise too risky. It builds muscle and gives your heart and lungs an excellent workout. However, it doesn’t strengthen the bones.
- Yoga: As well as improving posture and flexibility, yoga strengthens bones. Be aware that some yoga poses, particularly forward bends, may not be suitable for people with osteoporosis, so ask your doctor or physical therapist if there are positions you should skip.
- Climbing stairs. Whenever possible, take the stairs rather than an elevator or escalator. This will strengthen your leg muscles, heart and lungs, as well as help you get trim.
Here are some additional exercises to improve your muscle strength and strengthen your bones:
- Lifting canned goods or bags of groceries
- Lifting barbells
- Lifting young children
- Using ankle and wrist weights
- Using an elastic resistance band
If you think you might have osteoporosis, come see us
For more information on osteoporosis, please visit the Osteoporosis page on the Westchester Health Orthopedics and Sports Medicine website. If you think you might have osteoporosis, are afraid of falling and fracturing a bone, and/or would like a bone density test, please make an appointment with one of the orthopedic specialists at Westchester Health Orthopedics and Sports Medicine.
To read Dr. Gott’s blog in full, click here.