Osteoporosis is a common condition currently experienced by 66% of Australians over 50 years of age, where overtime bones become weak and brittle. As a result, bone strength is impacted which can likely lead to fractures and injury. This article will discuss how osteoporosis works and some exercise strategies you can implement , as understanding this can help you best manage your condition.
How does Osteoporosis Work?
Our bones are vital in providing structural support for the body, protecting our vital organs, storing calcium and assisting in blood cell production. They are made up of various proteins, minerals and vitamins and additionally, consist of two types of cells which are responsible for growth and repair. The first type consists of osteoblasts and osteocytes, which are responsible for formation of bone and the second type are osteoclasts, cells that are designed for resorption of mineralised tissue (the breaking down of old bone). During adulthood, our bones continuously go through the process of bone resorption, followed by bone formation and then materialisation of new bone material. This is called bone remodelling and is pivotal for maintaining skeletal mass.
However, as we age, bone remodelling decreases and the balance between bone building and breakdown changes resulting in decreased osteoblast activity. Bone resorption continues and overtime the bones weaken and bone mineral density (BMD) decreases and eventually the bones become more brittle and more prone to fractures. The early stages of this is called osteopenia which can then progresses to osteoporosis.
The optimal way of maintaining bone mass along with bone strength and reducing falls risk is through a structured exercise program. Weight bearing, resistance training and impact exercises are ideal for osteoporosis management, as overloading forces must be applied to the bone and stimulate osteoblast activity. Consequently, bone formation occurs, leading to maintenance of bone mineral density and strength.
A position statement by the American college of sports medicine (2004) recommends that impact activities such as plyometrics or jumping as well as moderate intensity resistance training are essential exercise strategies to manage Osteoporosis. Weight bearing exercises ideally should be completed three to five times per week along with resistance training two to three times per week. The duration of these exercises should roughly be 30 to 60 minutes. It is also important to consider balance exercises in your program to reduce falls risk and consequently reduce the risk of fractures.
Some examples of exercises you can use in your program include;
- Lateral bounds (side to side jumps for impact and bone loading)
- Step ups, but doing forceful steps to produce high impact work.
- Squat Jumps (for bone loading and lower limb strength)
- Touchdowns (for balance, reducing falls risk)