Keeping Exercise Safe Over-Fifty and in Zumba Classes

Keeping Exercise Safe Over-Fifty and in Zumba Classes

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!SusieVideo-9

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

Adapting Movements

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!



Comments (Scroll to the bottom to leave your comment)

  1. My bone scan results have improved from a -3.6 to – 1.1 in my spine after Forteo. Should I still refrain from forward flexion. My practitioner said I would have no restrictions now. Want a second opinion. Thank you.

  2. Those are wonderful numbers, Renee! I have never heard a medical opinion one way or another whether it’s fine to go back to forward flexions with improved DXA scores. Technically, at -1.1, you’re barely in the low bone density by -.1 and the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends moving with a neutral spine with any bone loss below -1.

    What I have heard, from a PT specialist in osteoporosis, that makes the most sense to me is that moving with a neutral spine and avoiding forward flexion is beneficial not only for the vertebrae, the bones of the spine, but also the intervertebral discs, the cushions between the vertebrae. It’s a good habit to be in—hinging back with the hips and using your legs, not your back, when lifting. It takes months to change one’s habits and if it were me, I’d stick with a neutral spine. Your legs will get much more exercise that way and potential disc problems can be minimized.

  3. Monica, if you have bone loss, it’s important to maintain a neutral spine when using any kind of weights. The main goal is to protect your spine and other bones as you strengthen your muscles. Side bending can compress vertebrae on the sides and puts extra pressure on the ribs.

  4. I am 66 years old with Osteopenia and I came across your videos looking for weight bearing videos. I have bought both of your videos and have watched them at least once. I am encouraged to be able to get back into working out. I have been away from the gym for 2 + years. I was wondering about your thoughts on step aerobics. I think I can do it but should I? I bought some music called step aerobics and it has different bpm, it goes from 70 – 132.

  5. Hi Carol,
    Step aerobics are very good for the hip bones and overall aerobic fitness. Be sure that you’re steady on your feet while stepping or find a way to use support. Keep it at a pace that’s doable for you and ease into it for long-term success.

  6. I am suffering from osteoporosis each time I do any exercise I have persist ant pains for days please what should I do

  7. Hello, Mercy!

    My best advice would be to see your doctor about the pain and also get a referral to a physical therapist who is well-versed in working with women with osteoporosis. She or he could make sure that you’re moving safely, not putting your spine at risk, and give you a balanced strengthening program.

    Besides other medical concerns that could be causing your pain, it sounds like you’re working too hard with your exercise. It’s best to start slowly and easily with an appropriate exercise program. When you don’t experience any pain and the exercises, as well as your recovery, are comfortable, you could gradually increase the intensity. But first, it’s very important that you see your healthcare provider before beginning any exercise program.

    Kind regards,

  8. I love my “gentle” yoga class, but I am vigilant about avoiding forward flexion. I’ve told my teacher why I avoid them and she now gives suggestions to the class about alternatives.

    On another note, I really like your strength training video and have been using it for years, but would love to have another with weights, maybe organized in shorter sections like your exercise band one. Is there any chance of that?
    Thanks for your work.

  9. Yes, Toby, it’s in the works! Be sure to sign up for my newsletter and I’ll let you know when it’s ready. (Yellow box on right.) Thanks!

  10. Susie;
    I am 58 yrs old & I’ve been doing Zumba using DVD’s in my living room for several years and while I do like them to some extent, I’m becoming concerned about all the twisting and gyrations involved since getting my Osteopenia diagnosis. I also use indoor power-walking DVD’s occasionally. I found your 2 videos on and ordered them right away! (I’ve been hesitant to start any weight training as I also have tendonitis in my shoulders, wrists, and ankles.) Watching clips of your videos made me want to pull out and dust off my old dumb bells, (ranging from 1-3lbs.) & ankle weights (adjustable from .5-5lbs). Up until recently, I thought there was nothing more I could do and would have to learn to live with my condition and hope I don’t break any more bones. But after learning about your blog & exercises, I have more hope that I can turn this around or at the very least, significantly slow down the bone loss.

  11. It sounds like you’re on a good role with exercise and making adaptations to keep your bones safe, Sue! The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends keeping a neutral spine whether you’re in the osteopenia or osteoporosis range, so it’s good you’re being careful. As your strength increases, you’ll need to go shopping and get the next heavier set of dumbbells when your three-pounders are no longer challenging…and that will be soon! It’s fun to see your progress over the months and get in some retail therapy, too! Those heavier dumbbells are a good lifetime investment in your health.
    Best wishes,

  12. Thanks! I received my DVD’s in the mail yesterday and started the Resistance Band video this morning. I can really feel my muscles getting a workout and I LOVE that you do stretches in between each movement! Really helps to keep from getting stiff later on. And I always have a tall glass of ice water handy during my workouts, sometimes adding a pinch of peppermint leaves from my garden. 🙂 Can’t wait to start the Weight Training video as well.

  13. Sue, it sounds like you’re motivated and doing everything right. Love that you’re drinking throughout the workout!

  14. Hi Sue,
    I am 69 years of age and I have osteoporosis and osteoporosis in my left hip and I am a massage therapist and also love doing gardening. It’s very hard to avoid forward flexion. Can’t avoid and afford to stop what I am doing. Any suggestions?

  15. Hello, Anastacia! It’s a challenge to change a lifetime of movement patterns, but it is possible. Take it slow and try to be as consistent as possible, hinging back with your hips, building those muscles in the lower body and back in order to keep the spine in a neutral position. Use a mirror while you’re building these new, healthier movement patterns. Your posture will benefit for a lifetime and so will your vertebrae. It’s worth the effort!
    Best wishes,