Those having osteoporosis should look for ways to increase physical activity in their lives
Osteoporosis decreases bone strength and density, and increases susceptibility to fractures in the elderly - especially postmenopausal women. Drug therapy, including calcium and bisphosphonates, and exercise, improve bone density and help prevent fractures. Exercise also improves balance and posture, lessens bone pains, improves mental health and fosters physical independence. However, the wrong kind of exercise can itself increase the risk for fractures.
Before beginning a programme of exercise, those at risk for osteoporosis should have a consultation with a physician or an orthopaedician. This is to assess the degree of osteoporosis, to determine what safe exercise is, and to institute drug therapy concomitantly. Skipping this step can be dangerous. In general, exercises with high impact, like running, jogging and jumping are not advisable for the elderly. Exercises that involve twisting at the waist and bending forward can stress the spine.
Not all exercises are good for the bones, even though they may be excellent exercises in their own right. For example, swimming is a great aerobic exercise, but it does nothing for the bones.
Weight training, yes, good old-fashioned bodybuilding, is the best exercise for osteoporotic bones. The increased weight stress on bones stimulates them to increase mineralisation, and this leads to increased bone density. Walking increases the stress on the lower limbs in a good way, and is an excellent exercise for the elderly.
Flexibility exercises are important because they increase the range of joint movement and help prevent muscle injury. However, exercises and postures that flex the spine are not good for the elderly, who may already have fragile vertebrae. For the same reason, bending at the waist during stretching is not advisable.
Stretching exercises should be done at the end of a workout and not at the beginning. They should be performed very slowly and gently –like Tai Chi.
Yoga is popular with the elderly, and most yoga postures and exercises are safe in osteoporosis. However, postures that stress the back and require flexing the spine or bending at the waist should be avoided.
Osteoporosis is not incompatible with an active life, and those having it should look for ways to increase physical activity in their lives.
With treatment and a little care, life should be near-normal even with osteoporosis.RAJIV. M