Receiving a life-changing medical diagnosis such as osteoporosis can feel a little overwhelming at first, but we’re here to explain how to tackle this condition head on to minimise your risk of falls and fractures.
An osteoporosis diagnosis means your bones have become weak and fragile, thanks to a significant loss of bone mass (low bone mass is called osteopenia, while very low mass is osteoporosis). You are now at a higher risk of bone fracture, usually of the wrist, hip and spine.
Statistically, this is likely to be because you are a woman who has gone through menopause, after which you would have experienced about one-fifth bone mass loss in the first five to seven years.
Sedentary and obese people of any gender, who often have lax muscle tone and lower strength, are also at risk of significant bone density loss.
It’s crucial that you work on improving your balance and strength. Falls are a major risk to those with osteoporosis – with fractures of the hip and its junction with the thigh bone being the most serious. And when we say serious, we mean it – with 24% of hip fracture patients aged over 50 dying within a year.
All is not lost after osteoporosis diagnosis
There are some lifestyle changes you can make that will definitely work in your favour – by reducing your risk of further deterioration or of breaking bones.
- Quit smoking. Smoking is known to increase the rate at which you lose bone mass, thus increasing your risk of a serious fracture.
- Reduce, or better yet, give up drinking. Any form of alcohol intoxication will increase your risk of slipping or falling. Also, drinking more than two standard drinks a day can decrease bone formation.
- Remove trip/slip hazards. As well as scouring your house and garden for trip hazards - such as electrical cords, slippery wet areas, loose steps and area rugs, or hazardous pathways – it pays to wear sensible flat footwear with high-grip souls, get some grab bars installed in your home, and do a lighting audit to ensure all areas are well-lit.
- Daily balancing practice. Having good balance well into your golden years can help prevent fractures caused by falling. Some simple daily practices include standing on one foot for as long as possible while trying to beat your time each day, walking backwards, standing on a balance board, and tai chi.
- Get moving: Walking is your best friend, as a load-bearing aerobic exercise that is non-contact and low impact. Sadly, swimming and cycling, which are also low-impact, are not weight-bearing exercises so they are ineffective for delaying deterioration of bone density.
Your recommended exercise is daily walking, with weights twice a week
That’s right folks, the humble moderate-paced walk – which is free and requires nothing more than some comfortable shoes, a destination and a water bottle - is the perfect exercise for you 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
Mix this up with some moderate-intensity weights, a combination that evidence suggests helps to prevent and treat osteoporosis. That’s because both walking and strength training are weight bearing and put pressure on the bones.
Try to build strength in your lower body first, using weight machines to start if you have balance problems. Building strength in your lower body will help lower your risk of falling. Don’t neglect your upper body though, which is important for minimising the impact of OP.
If you have joint issues or other health problems, start with just one set of 10-15 repetitions for all major muscle groups. Build up to 15-20 repetitions before you add another set. For those without other health issues, you are OK to start at two sets.
For those in the groove of resistance training, you want to build up towards 80-85% 1RM. This means your weights exercise should be heavy enough that your starting to fatigue at around 6-8 reps.
Hopping can also be a really good exercise to build bone mineral density, but we strongly suggest you discuss with your exercise physiologist or medical practitioner before diving into this.
Remember, you are not training to be a weight lifter. You are trying to improve your strength and muscle endurance. This will improve or maintain your bone mass and make your daily activities less stressful.
How to get started
- Talk with a trusted health care professional – such as your expert Agility Rehabilitation Exercise Physiologist – before you get started to ensure you stay safe and don’t injure yourself.
- Put some planning into your walks to make them fun. Plan a route that makes you happy, takes you through some beautiful nature, or that you enjoy being challenged by. And if you are motivated by music, create a playlist.
- Invite others to join you. Making a regular commitment keeps you motivated to continue.
- Take your dog for walks with you. Don’t have one? We’re sure your neighbour would appreciate having their fur baby walked frequently.
- Look for walking programs and groups in your local community. It’s fun and social.
- Invest in a pedometer or activity tracker, set a goal and then set out to conquer it.
- Take all medications that have been prescribed to you by your doctor.
If you’re keen to get started but have concerns about your osteoporosis, another existing injury, chronic pain, condition or mental health concerns, some expert advice is always a great starting point.
Our team of expert and empathic Agility Rehabilitation Exercise Physiologists are here to help you move safely toward your goals.
You can contact us via: https://www.agilityrehab.com.au/contact
, or call (08) 6162 8145