Osteoporosis and Exercise

Osteoporosis is a common condition affecting over one million Australians. Osteoporosis occurs when bones lose minerals faster than the body can replace them. This results in a loss of bone density or thickness, and as a result of this, bones can become thin, brittle, weakened and fracture/break easily. This is particularly evident in post-menopausal women in which the decrease in oestrogen levels causes bone mineral loss at a greater rate, however men are also affected by the condition.

Any bone can be affected by Osteoporosis but the most common areas include the hip, spine and wrist. Osteoporosis often does not have any symptoms until a fracture occurs, and this can then have devastating effects on a person’s mobility, independence and overall health. Risk factors for Osteoporosis include:

  • Gender – females are at a greater risk
  • Family history of the condition
  • Low calcium and vitamin D levels
  • Decreased level of physical activity
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Body weight – both thin and obese builds
  • Certain medical conditions and medications

Regular physical activity and exercise has been shown to play an important role in maintaining or improving bone density. Exercise also strengthens muscles, which support the spine and peripheral joints. Our bones become stronger when a certain amount of impact or load is placed on them, and therefore there are specific types of exercises that are better for bones. These include:

  • Weight-bearing exercise – for example brisk walking, jogging, skipping, ball sports, dancing, impact aerobics, stair walking
  • Progressive resistance training – for example: lifting weights (hand/ankle weights) or gym equipment

It has also been shown that to prevent/improve Osteoporosis, exercise needs to be regular (at least 3 times a week), progressive (gradually increase), and varied (performing a variety of types of exercise). Furthermore, whilst exercises to prevent falls are not specifically designed to strengthen bones, this type of exercise has been demonstrated to help reduce the risk of fractures and therefore are good to incorporate into an exercise regime.

Pro Health Care runs a variety of exercise classes and programs to assist in the prevention and management of Osteoporosis.

For more information:

  • Book an appointment with our Women’s Health Physiotherapist (Kathryn Meade) or our Exercise Physiologist (Andrew Bradley)
  • Consult your General Practitioner
  • Osteoporosis Australia – www.osteoporosis.org.au

Kathryn Meade, Women’s Health Physiotherapist