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3 Best Exercises for Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a medical condition characterized by a decrease in bone density and strength, leading to an increased risk of fractures. It commonly occurs as people age, particularly in postmenopausal women due to hormonal changes, but it can also affect men and younger individuals due to various factors such as genetics, lifestyle, and medical conditions.


A clinical practice guideline developed in 2023 for the “Management of Osteoporosis and Fracture Prevention” in 2023 made some recommendations for exercise. A few activities that they generally recommended were:


1.     Balance and functional training ≥ twice weekly to reduce the risk of falls.  Some examples include reaction training, dynamic balance like Tai Chi and agility training, and single leg balance work.

2.     Progressive resistance training ≥ twice weekly, including exercises targeting abdominal and back extensor muscles.

3.     Other activities (e.g., walking, impact exercise, yoga, Pilates) should be encouraged in addition to, but not instead of, balance, functional and resistance training.

 

This is helpful, but let’s get a little more specific in our recommendations for the best exercises for osteoporosis. We know that in order to stimulate bone growth and positive impacts on bone density, we need to exercise with impact.  Examples of some basic impact exercises are hiking, walking, dancing, and stair climbing. If tolerable, higher impact exercises that can be beneficial are foot stomping, jump roping, jogging/running, and sports that are moderate to higher intensity.


Minimal impact exercises that are not as beneficial for osteoporosis prevention or treatment are swimming, bike riding, or using an elliptical. Some other examples of exercises that are not as beneficial are band-based exercises or exercises that are performed lying down without any weights involved.

 

Here are some specific exercises I really like and often implement often. The variation of each of these depends on the person, their goals, risk, severity of their osteoporosis, and more.


1.     Carries: It doesn’t have to be complicated. I love a simple farmers carry. Hold a weight in each hand and get to walking.

2.     Squat variations: This is one of the most important compound movements to have in a program. Here are some examples from more demanding to less:

a.     Double leg: barbell back or front squats, goblet squats, sit to stands

b.     Single leg/asymmetrical: lunges, split squats, step-ups or step-downs

3.     Deadlift variations: Yes, you heard that right. I do have everyone from my teenage athletes to my 65-year-olds with bone density issues doing deadlift variations. Here are a few versions I love scaled from more demanding to less:

a.     Trap bar deadlifts

b.     Kettlebell elevated deadlifts

c.     Single leg or kickstand RDLs

d.     Bridging variations

 


A performance physical therapist spotting an adult female patient barbell back squatting to improve her osteoporosis.

Big Takeaways:

-Lift with fewer reps, but heavier weights. We need to challenge ourselves. Get with someone who can guide you in how to do this safely if you aren’t sure.

-Use progressive overload. Ditch the bands and the same light weights you have had for years. Start picking up some weights and gradually progressing them overtime.

-Get up off the table/floor and get vertical with your movements.

-Include balance work. This can be single leg exercises either stationary or dynamic like step-ups or RDLs with a focus on stability.

 

I hope this was helpful!


Let’s talk soon,

Dr. Sieara Hinshaw

828-808-3704

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