Keeping exercise safe over-fifty, especially with osteoporosis or osteopenia (low bone density), can be a challenge. I often get questions about whether Zumba or other high intensity exercise classes are safe for my age group, the over-fifty crowd.
Have Fun, Get Fit, But Do No Harm!
When the whole class is having a blast moving to the music and you find yourself wondering if you’re pushing your limits beyond what was safe, take a step back and reassess. We can get swept away in any class, wanting to keep up with our peers, or those much younger than ourselves.
No Peer Pressure!
I often remind my class participants to ignore how much weight their neighbor is lifting. No peer pressure!!! It seems crazy to need to mention it, but I do. We all want to do our best. A class can bring out one’s competitive nature, which isn’t bad, but it needs controlling! Comparing yourself with others is a habit worth breaking at our age! Find a class for your particular age group that is adapted for bone loss. And, always keep in mind that peer pressure and motivating music can make you push harder than what is appropriate for you, individually.
Moves to Avoid
It’s so important to move, but to move safely with osteoporosis, modifying dance or exercise programs as necessary. Dance is a wonderful form of exercise and it’s worth finding types of dance or adaptations to make it safe! Bending forward from the waist (spinal flexion), twisting to the point of strain, deep side bends, quick moves, and really high impact moves are all risky with bone loss. Zumba, without adaptations, can be risky for osteoporotic spines because of the quick moves, twists, and some spinal flexions. That “leaving your hips behind” move creates a twist and often a quick one at that.
Read more about Moving Safely at https://www.nof.org/live/moving-safely
There are always ways to adapt movements. For instance, while a class is doing jumping jacks, you can do the same move with your arms, but step to the side, instead of jumping with both feet. Switch sides midway. There are Zumba Gold classes for seniors that MAY be better suited for exercise with bone loss or when over fifty, but I wouldn’t be able to say for sure since I haven’t attended one. With most exercise classes, forward flexion moves are included, so be vigilant to avoid those.
Find the Right Class
It’s ideal if you can find a class where everyone is doing safe moves together so you don’t always have to be wondering whether you should adapt or not. Interview your exercise instructor before taking a class to see if the exercises are safe with bone loss and get suggestions on adaptations you can make. You might have to be the one to educate the instructor! Doing your research ahead of time can make the difference in soaring with your fitness or overdoing it and getting side-lined with possible injuries. A great class can get you moving safely and change your life!
If you’ve found a class you love, please let us know what makes it so good! Thanks!