Exercise tips for those with osteoporosis

SINGAPORE - People who do not build enough bone mass during the critical childhood and teenage years are at risk of osteoporosis later in life.

Other factors that predispose someone to osteoporosis include leading a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, hormonal imbalances and a lack of calcium in the diet.

Osteoporosis is diagnosed by a bone mineral density test, a special X-ray, said Dr Cindy Lin Yuchin, staff attending physician, sports medicine and rehabilitation medicine at Changi General Hospital.

Symptoms include loss of height, a hunch and fractures, particularly of the hip, spine and lower arm bones, she said.

Exercise is crucial in building and maintaining bone mass during one's early years. But it can also help those who already have osteoporosis. In this case, exercise should focus on weight bearing, balance, improving posture and preventing falls, said Dr Lin.

Weight-bearing exercise means having the feet and legs support one's body weight during exercise. A few examples of such exercises include dancing and stair climbing.

However, do avoid high-impact weight-bearing exercises, such as running, jogging and jumping, which could put stress on the spine and lead to fractures.

Instead, choose gentler weight-bearing exercises such as dancing and low-impact aerobics.

Resistance exercises, in which one works against the weight of another object, also help because they strengthen muscle and build bone.

Studies have shown that resistance exercises, such as those using free weights or weight machines, increase bone density and reduce the risk of fractures.

Do not do resistance training on the same muscle group two days in a row in order to give it time to recover.

If you already have osteoporosis, avoid exercises that involve explosive movements, excessive twisting or repetitive forward bending through the spine, said Dr Lin.

These movements can put you at risk of fractures. These include sit-ups, toe touches and rowing machines.

If you are already suffering from bone loss, talk to your doctor, physiotherapist or sports trainer who have experience treating patients with osteoporosis for a specific exercise programme that is safe, said Dr Lin.

Ms Jindee Boolsambatra, senior physiotherapist at Changi General Hospital, shows some resistance and weight-bearing exercises suitable for someone with osteoporosis.

All exercises should be performed in three sets of 10, but you should stop if you feel tired, or experience any pain or discomfort during the exercise, said Ms Jindee.


Get a copy of Mind Your Body, The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.