What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a common condition affecting 1.2 million Australians, it’s where bones become fragile and brittle leading to a higher risk of fractures than in normal bones. Osteoporosis occurs when bones lose minerals, such as calcium, more quickly than the body can replace them, leading to a loss of bone thickness (bone density). Any bone can be affected by osteoporosis, but the most common sites are the hip, spine, wrist, upper arm, forearm or ribs. Fractures in the spine due to osteoporosis can result in changes in posture and height loss.
As bones become thinner and less dense, even a minor bump or fall can cause a serious fracture. Falls are a common cause of fractures for people with osteoporosis. Osteoporosis usually has no symptoms until a fracture occurs – this is why it is often called the ‘silent disease’.
Why is exercise important for those with osteoporosis?
Exercise can help bones modify their shape and size so they become stronger and this can prevent injuries. Exercise also increases muscle strength and improves balance which can help reduce the risk of falls. Approximately one third of people over 65 fall each year and it’s estimated that around 6% of falls result in a fracture. This makes maintaining bone density and preventing falls an important health issue.
To maintain bone density healthy people should perform weight-bearing activities that have an impact on bones such as running, jumping and skipping. However, those with osteoporosis should perform only low-impact weight bearing exercises, mainly aimed at reducing falls. Some great options would include Tai Chi, walking, stair climbing and even line dancing.
People with osteoporosis should speak to their GP or an AAP accredited exercise physiologist before taking up exercise.