Keeping Fit with Osteoporosis

Keeping Fit with Osteoporosis

Strength Training ClassThis morning on my Facebook page, the question was asked, "What do you do if you can't do what you used to do to keep fit because of osteoporosis or other degenerative issues?" Number one, make the necessary adaptations to exercise safely!-video clip. Having a diagnosis of osteoporosis or osteopenia, for example, is often a tough physical and psychological milestone to face as we age. Some have to face physical problems from birth or at a much earlier age with conditions that surface in their youth. It inspires me no end to see their valiant efforts.

Here are some how-to-stay-fit suggestions with safer ways of moving when you have osteoporosis or osteopenia.

The following is the National Osteoporosis Foundation's (NOF) overview at the beginning of the Exercise Topic section in their community forum:

“We know most about two types of exercise that build and maintain bone density. These are weight-bearing and resistance/strengthening exercises. Examples of weight-bearing exercises are walking, jogging, stair climbing and team sports. Examples of resistance or strengthening exercises are those that use free weights, resistance machines and exercise bands. Note: If you have bone loss or osteoporosis or if you are frail, always check with your healthcare provider first before starting a new exercise program.”

NOF’s publication, “Boning Up on Osteoporosis”, is a good place to start with educating yourself about healthy bones and exercise. It’s only $1! On the NOF website, there are numerous articles on Moving Safely.

My favorite book on bone health and exercise is Dr. Miriam Nelson’s, “Strong Women, Strong Bones”, available in most libraries. It is very comprehensive and inspiring. Her website has information on strength training classes across the country.

In my strength training classes for women in their middle and older adult years, my class participants often tell me, "I only strength train because I signed up and you make me do these exercises!" I've seen over and over again, if you make it social, you'll make it happen. Getting a friend to strength train with you in your own home, at a Rec Center, or join a class is an excellent way to incorporate exercise into your life. Meet for a brisk walk and catch up on each other’s lives to get in your weight bearing exercise. You'll accrue many health benefits and feel wonderful!

FIT Group at the TriHawk start, 2009
FIT Group at the TriHawk start, 2009
I'm a lucky member of a group of women, all over 60, with one young 50 year old and the occasional younger person, who get together for hikes, bike rides, swims, community walks/runs, and the occasional sprint triathlon as a team. The bond that we have created through exercise is wonderful!

Even with low bone density (osteopenia), be sure to adapt your movements to make them safe for your bones. Karen Kemmis, PT, DPT, mentions in the “Movement Modifications” section of her article, “Protecting the Spine through Exercise”, “In addition to people with osteoporosis of the spine, some individuals with low bone density (osteopenia) of the spine who have other risk factors for fracture may need to make these modifications.” Click to read the whole article.

Best of luck in making a plan and making it happen! -Susie

Comments (Scroll to the bottom to leave your comment)

  1. I just purchased your DVD, and watched it for the first time. I have used weights before, but not consistently.
    I am wondering if women over sixty who use weight training to address osteoporosis, can concurrently obtain a really toned body? I am referring to a body does not jiggle, and where there are no batwings.
    I was also told by an osteoporosis specialist that the use of an elliptical will not help my bone health. Would
    You please comment on this?
    Thanks for all the wonderful work you do.

  2. Hi Alyssa, I’ll have an answer for you in the morning! Thanks for the great questions!

  3. Reply in the 12/31/12 blog post entitled, “Q & A: Weight training for osteoporosis, toned body after 60, “batwings”, and elliptical trainers.”