The Benefits of Active Aging: Osteoporosis Fitness Training

We are committed to acting as your fitness partner, providing the best tools to help you make a personalized plan to optimize your health and improve your quality of life at any age.

To accomplish this, sometimes it's necessary to share the expertise of certified personal trainers and local fitness experts.

One such expert is Carol Michaels, owner of Carol Michaels Fitness, who is committed to getting (or keeping) people get fit by learning how to live healthy lifestyles. 

"Physical activity will improve your quality of life, health, self-esteem and confidence. It's important to incorporate an exercise program that not only fits your lifestyle, but that is enjoyable, effective, and fun. Exercise not only improves your health – you will look better too!"

Carol knows that one way to live your best life - at ANY age - is to optimize your fitness for your goals and concerns.

Plus, as an expert in Osteoporosis training we thought she would be the perfect person to discuss how to make an osteoporosis training plan that targets specific exercise goals including;

Osteoporosis Fitness Training

  • Strengthen bones
  • Increases muscle
  • Decreases body fat
  • Deceases anxiety, depression, and stress
  • Improves balance
  • Decreases risk of falls and injury
  • Improves posture

Let's get started!

We asked Carol to share her expertise on the best way to treat, manage, and prevent osteoporosis through exercise:

What is Osteoporosis?

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 1 out of 2 women and 1 out of 4 men over 50 will have a wrist, hip, or spine fracture due to osteoporosis. Effective and safe exercise can improve quality of life and overall health.

Osteoporosis means porous bone. It causes the bone density to decrease and bones become fragile and break easily. Osteoporosis can cause a break in any bone, but the most common sites for breaks are the hips, spine and wrist. A broken hip or spine may require a hospital stay or surgery and can lead to permanent pain, disability, or death.

Our bodies are always breaking down bone and replacing it with new bone. In the reabsorption stage, the old bone is broken down and in the formation stage, new bone is built. It is constantly being renewed throughout our lives.  As we age the replacement process slows down. 

Bone is a living tissue, which has little spaces which get larger as we lose bone density. To make matters worse, the outside of the bone thins as well.  Calcium and phosphate are essential for bone formation.  If you do not get enough calcium or your body does not absorb enough calcium, it will hurt bone production.

Bone loss occurs in everyone as we get older.

Bone forming cells begin to slow down, which causes bone to be lost at a faster pace than it is formed. Osteoporosis occurs as a result of an acceleration of this process, which is called primary osteoporosis. Secondary osteoporosis is caused by some medications and disease processes. Osteoporosis typically occurs in older people and women after menopause.

The leading causes of osteoporosis are a decrease in estrogen in women at menopause and a drop of testosterone in men. 

It is a silent disease because it progresses without visible symptoms.

There are no symptoms in the early stages. Most people do not know that they have it until a bone fractures. It can be from a fall or something as slight as a bear hug. A sneeze or sudden movement can be enough to break a bone in someone with severe osteoporosis.  Later in the disease you can notice kyphosis or a stooped posture. A dowager’s hump becomes apparent. There can be neck or back pain due to fractures or bone tenderness. Loss of height can occur even up to 5 or 6 inches.

Reduced bone density can be seen on a DEXA scan. Those over 50 have this routinely done to test bone mineral density. A score of –1 to –2.5 standard deviations indicates osteopenia which indicates the beginning of osteoporosis. A standard deviation of more than- 2.5 is considered osteoporosis. This number is called a t score which compares bone density to a 25-year-old. This test focuses on the lower spine and hip.

Who is at Risk for Osteoporosis?

There are various risk factors; some are controllable, and some are not.

Women are at higher risk than men.

Why? Because women have smaller bones and there may be issues which increase risk such as: late menarche, amenorrhea, and hysterectomy at young age. Older people are at risk as their bones get thinner. 

Osteoporosis seems to run in families, and those that have had a fracture after 50 are considered higher danger. Caucasians and Asians are at higher risk, as are smokers and alcohol use, being thin, doing little exercise, and a diet without sufficient vitamin D and calcium.

Other risk factors: rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, anorexia, premature menopause, asthma, multiple sclerosis, lupus, some antacids, cancer treatments, and thyroid, gastrointestinal, blood and renal disorders. ​

Managing Osteoporosis Through Exercise.

​It is important to learn about the prevention, treatment and management of osteoporosis through exercise.

It is necessary to understand how to exercise properly and safely in order to decrease the risk the progression of this disease. A well-designed program may help you decrease bone loss and the risk of fractures.

Effective and safe exercise can improve quality of life, overall health, and keep osteoporosis under control. There is evidence demonstrating that exercise can slow loss of bone density and that osteoporosis is typically less prevalent in people who are active.

It is a good idea to start building bone mass at a young age so that you will start with a higher-level bone mass as you age. 

Components of an Exercise Program

After medical clearance, someone with osteoporosis can begin to exercise.  Warm up before starting and cool down afterwards.  Use proper body mechanics during the exercise session and throughout the day.

The body needs to always be aligned properly so there is less stress on the spine.  This will help to maintain good posture, which also helps with kyphosis. This forward head and upper back curve can be noticed in those with osteoporosis, sometimes caused by small fractures in the spine.

Weight bearing exercise

Weight bearing exercise is where the weight of the body is transmitted through the bones. Walking, dancing and hiking are examples of weight bearing exercise. This should be done three to five times a week for 45 minutes. If using a treadmill, hold on to the handle Swimming and water exercise, although good for the heart is not as effective for bone density.

Strength training

Strength training or resistance exercise generates muscle tension on the bone. Strength training should be done two to three times per week without working the same muscle group two days in a row.

It is important to focus on exercise designed to treat osteoporosis by strengthening bones and muscles leading to better posture and balance.

Strength training actually stimulates the bone because the muscle is pulling on the bone.  We lose muscle mass as we age and with less muscle, there is less tugging on the bones.

So not only does strength training increase our muscle mass, which has numerous benefits, but also stimulates the bones. Exercising while standing is more effective and can help with balance as well.

Balance

Balance exercises are also crucial for this population. It is important to work on balance in order to prevent falls. 

Falling and fear of falling is a serious problem for someone with osteoporosis.  Always wear the proper footwear. Balance exercise should be performed daily and simply practicing standing on one leg for ten seconds will help and can be done anywhere.

It is important to keep the major muscle groups of the legs and core strong, which will also help with balance. Due to a fear a falling some people become inactive which only accelerates loss of bone mass.

Posture

Postural exercise is also important. A goal is to decrease the risk of rounded shoulders and spinal fractures. Emphasize body awareness and alignment during exercise and activities of daily living. Posture exercises help maintain proper body alignment and can be performed a few times a day.  Be mindful of posture throughout the day.  A good stretching program will help.  Focus on stretching the chest muscle and strengthen the back muscles to prevent rounded shoulders. Keeping muscles strong and flexible will also help with an emphasis on spinal stability. 

Exercising Safely

Bending forward from the waist, and extreme side bending, and rotation is contraindicated. Therefore, doing something as simple as reaching for the toes can be harmful. If you have to bend forward, keep the back straight, hinging from the hips, without rounding the back. 

Learn how to move in ways which will avoid compression fractures.

Movement that involves forward bending or rounding the spine has been found to increase spinal fractures in this population.  Since an abdominal crunch and other traditional abdominal exercises and some abdominal machines are contraindicated, it is necessary to do other abdominal exercises that do not have forward flexion.

With that in mind it is important to know what exercises are safe to strengthen the core if bone mass is low. Some examples of exercises that are safe are the dead bug, pelvic tilt, and leg raises.

Extreme twisting of the trunk is also contraindicated. A large percentage of Pilates and Yoga exercises have to be modified in order to avoid bending, twisting, and forward bending with rotation.  Pilates exercises done in flexion can be modified.

For example, you can do the hundred, double leg stretch, and the criss cross with your head on the floor. There are still a lot of Pilates exercise that can be done such as single leg circles, and the corkscrew. Back extension exercises such as swimming are fine.

Spinal extension exercise should be performed because it has been found that those with stronger back muscles have higher spine bone density.  The posterior of the vertebra contain cortical bone, which is strong.  Therefore, back extension is safe. 

A properly designed practice can strengthen the skeleton and improve balance thereby decreasing the risk of future falls. It can also improve posture and rounding of the back. 

So, can you reverse osteoporosis?

"I am asked this question regularly. It is not a yes or no answer. It is possible but very difficult to reverse osteoporosis without medication. Each person is unique and there are numerous factors that come into play such as genetic make-up and medications that you may have been taking which cause bone loss. Because it is difficult to reverse bone loss, your goal should be prevention. Check your bone density regularly so that you can decrease the risk of osteopenia advancing to full blown osteoporosis. This can be accomplished through the right exercise routine, proper food intake and lifestyle changes. Consistency is key."

In the Short Hills, NJ area and interested in working with Carol or learning more about visit -  Carol Michaels Fitness

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