Exercise Can Prevent Bone Loss

Michael Lasalandra Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Correspondent

APRIL 01, 2011

 exercise bones

senior couple walking

Exercise is an easy way to help prevent osteoporosis or, if you already have it, to keep it from getting worse.

"If you don't currently have osteoporosis you can maintain good bone health by doing exercise that helps prevent bone loss," says Mark Dynan, PT, DPT, OCS, physical therapist and orthopedic clinical specialist at Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare-Lexington.

"At the same time, if you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis based on a bone mineral density test, then exercise can be helpful to prevent further bone loss so the osteoporosis doesn't worsen," he adds.

The two types of exercise that are helpful in the fight against osteoporosis are weight bearing exercise and resistance training. Weight bearing exercise can range from a high level aerobics class to playing tennis, to going for a walk.

"Just regular walking can prevent the loss of bone in the legs, hips and spine," he says. Dynan suggests walking three to five times per week for between 30 and 45 minutes each time, with first-time exercisers starting at the lower end.

Resistance training using weights, machines or resistance bands employs the muscle pulling against the bone in order to keep the bones strong, he says.

Exercise not only prevents bone loss, it also strengthens muscles and improves balance and flexibility to help prevent falls that can lead to broken bones, he notes.

But Dynan recommends those who have not been exercising regularly should first have their doctor refer them to a physical therapist for an assessment and an individualized program.

"People who have not been exercising regularly may have some underlying issues, such as the beginning of arthritis, poor posture or tight muscles that would be identified in the assessment," he explains. "Without the appropriate guidance, people may do the wrong exercises or do the right exercises with the wrong frequency or intensity, and that could lead to an unnecessary injury."

The therapist will also perform a posture assessment, he says. "Poor sitting or standing posture can compress the spine," he says. "This can make people susceptible to compression fractures of the spine if their vertebrae are fragile from osteoporosis."

He adds, "YES, fractures can happen even if you don't fall. That's why having the right exercise regime designed specifically for you is so important."

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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