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Exercise and Osteoporosis

February 5, 2024

Osteoporosis is a disease characterised by a decrease in bone mass which leads to more fragile bones and an increased risk of fractures. It is known as the silent disease as many people don’t know they have it until they break a bone, often from very minimal trauma.

Bones need normal sex hormones to keep them healthy which is why it is found in 1 in 2 post-menopausal women. However it is not just women affected and it can even span across all age groups. Other risk factors are inadequate calcium and vitamin D.

The Role of Exercise in Prevention

Certain types of exercise have been shown to stimulate bone growth which can help prevent osteoporosis. This growth is most significant during adolescence but can also be achieved for adults. Weight bearing exercises such as running, skipping, jumping etc. are thought to work best as they have an osteogenic or ‘bone growing’ effect. Exercise like swimming is not as effective as it is not weight bearing, although is beneficial for other health reasons. Your bones need to constantly be ‘surprised’ so sports like basketball or tennis that change in speed and direction are very good to prevent osteoporosis. Strength training is also recommended.

The Role of Exercise in Treatment

If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis your doctor may prescribe calcium, vitamin D or other medications in addition to speaking to you about nutrition and exercise. A physiotherapist can help prescribe an individual exercise program depending on the severity of your osteoporosis and physical abilities. It is important to seek advice from a physiotherapist in this regard, as there are some exercises that are not recommended e.g. those that involve a lot of bending of the back in someone who has osteoporosis of the spine.

General Guidelines

Frequency: Weight-bearing activities 3-5 times per week; resistance exercise 2-3 times per week

Intensity: Moderate – High

Type: Weight-bearing endurance activities (tennis; stair climbing; jogging etc.), activities that involve jumping (volleyball, basketball), and resistance exercise (weight lifting)

Time: 30-60 minutes/day of a combination of weight-bearing endurance activities, activities that involve jumping, and resistance exercise that targets all major muscle groups

If you need help designing an exercise program based on the FITT principles, please contact one of our physiotherapists by calling our Merrion Square clinic on 01 441 0100.