Osteoporosis is a common disease that affects the bones of the body, causing them to become brittle and more susceptible to fractures. Osteoporosis is caused by the loss of minerals (such as calcium) at a faster rate than the body can produce them, which causes a loss of bone density. As bones become less dense, minor bumps or falls can lead to fractures. Unfortunately, this often means people affected by osteoporosis are reluctant to exercise, believing it will increase their likelihood of suffering a fracture, when in fact evidence suggests that exercise is one of the most effective treatment modalities for this condition.
Exercise is fast becoming a widely used for of treatment for osteoporosis, with research showing that it reduces the risk of falls in elderly people, as well as improving bone density in osteoporotic individuals. With targeted exercise programs including strength training, the risk of osteoporosis can be significantly reduced, as well as improving bone density levels and lowering the risk of falls.
It is important to remember that improvements in bone density levels don’t occur quickly, and as such, motivation can sometimes become a factor when exercising for osteoporotic individuals. Making sure your exercise is goal orientated and realising that exercise can help to alleviate or manage the symptoms, improve your ability to perform activities of daily living, reduce disability and improve quality of life. Exercise physiologists, who are trained to prescribe exercise for the treatment of chronic conditions such as osteoporosis are well skilled to develop and prescribe exercise programs for their patients, so they can get back to living their life and enjoying the activities they love to do.
An Exercise Physiology program for osteoporosis will always be individualised based on specific client needs and exercises are carefully chosen for each patient depending on their functional abilities, goals and confidence with exercise. The goal of exercise programs for osteoporosis and falls risk patients is to progress them to high impact training, as research suggests this training type has many benefits for patients with this condition.
General exercise programs for patients with osteoporosis will begin with body weight strength-based exercises, to gain a baseline level of strength, before progressing to loaded strength exercises that mimic activities of everyday life. Increasing loads throughout a strength program are extremely important for people with osteoporosis or falls risk clients, as these increases further load the bones of the body, assisting with improvements in bone density as well as increasing strength levels, which has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of falls.
Once a strength program has been firmly established, static balance and high impact training need to be introduced, to target stability levels whilst stationary and on the move. Careful monitoring of these types of training allows safety to be maintained, along with correct exercise technique, to ensure maximal benefits from an exercise program.