A common misconception is that people with osteoporosis are unable to engage in physical activity, but that is not necessarily the case. While osteoporosis can affect mobility, there are plenty of exercises that are both beneficial and safe for osteoporosis patients. While it is important to not overexert yourself, regular exercise has several benefits for those with the condition. Continue reading to learn exercises you can practice with osteoporosis!
Exercise can help reduce or slow bone loss in people with osteoporosis of the spine. It can also strengthen muscles and improve balance, reducing the risk of falls and injuries.
Strengthening the muscles that support the spine is particularly important for people with osteoporosis in this region of the body.
That said, people with spine osteoporosis need to avoid certain motions and activities when exercising. Forceful twisting movements, high impact exercise, and activities that carry a risk of fractures may be unsafe.
Read on to learn six exercises for osteoporosis of the spine and which exercises to avoid.
Can exercises reverse osteoporosis of the spine?
Exercise cannot fully reverse or cure osteoporosis, but it does have a range of important benefits for people with this condition. Regular exercise can:
- reduce bone loss, slowing the progression of the disease
- conserve remaining bone tissue
- strengthen muscles
- increase mobility
- improve reaction times, balance, and coordination
- reduce the risk of fracture due to falls
- reduce pain
- improve mood and vitality
- improve overall fitness, which reduces the risk of many other conditions
Which types of exercise are best?
People with osteoporosis can benefit from combining several types of exercise, including:
Weight-bearing aerobic exercise: This includes activities that increase heart rate and also involve supporting one’s own body weight. Dancing, aerobics, and brisk walking are some examples.
Resistance training: This involves using force to push, pull, or lift against resistance. People can use hand-held weights, resistance bands, their own body weight, or resistance machines for this.
Posture and balance exercises: Practices such as tai chi and yoga involve holding or slowly moving through different poses, which can strengthen the muscles that help with balance.
A 2018 study highlights the importance of weight-bearing exercise and resistance training in particular for maintaining bone density, especially as people age.
For people with spine osteoporosis, specific types of exercise can help maintain spine health.
A 2022 consensus statement recommends spinal extension exercises. The Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation (BHOF) highlights the importance of exercises that strengthen the supporting muscles of the spine.
Exercising safely with osteoporosis
While exercise can be very beneficial for those with spine osteoporosis, it is important to exercise safely, in a way that minimizes the risk of injury or fractures.
In an instructional video, the United Kingdom’s Royal Osteoporosis Society recommends:
- Addressing stability: If a person is not used to exercise, they should ensure they are strong enough to stay stable and balanced before trying more difficult exercises.
- Wearing comfortable clothes: Comfortable clothes and supportive shoes can make exercise easier.
- Finding space: Ensure that there is enough space for exercise and that the room is not too hot or cold.
- Warming up and cooling down: This can help reduce muscle soreness.
- Build up gradually: Start with easier exercises with lower intensity.
Exercising with osteoporosis is generally safe, but there are some movements people should avoid, such as:
- loaded forward-bending of the spine, such as abdominal situps
- sudden, forceful movements, except those that are part of a progressive program that builds up slowly
- forceful twisting motions, like a golf swing, unless a person is used to this sort of movement
- activities that carry a risk of falling