Osteoporosis & Exercise
Osteoporosis is a condition that affects millions of Australians. It is characterised by low bone mass and decreased bone strength. The result is an increased risk of fracture. The development and maintenance of strong bones throughout life is the key to preventing osteoporotic fracture later in life. Sadly 90% of hip fractures are a direct result of falls.
Exercise habits play an important role in determining whether someone will go on to develop osteoporotic fractures. In the 1960’s the medical world became aware that one of the consequences of unloading bones was bone loss as was discovered with returning astronauts who had been anti-gravity for a protracted period of time.
How exercise effects the bones:
- Bone loss and weakening result when bones are unloaded. Such losses of bone can occur with immobilisation (eg leg in a cast), and irregular or insufficient weight bearing exercise.
- Activities and exercise that produce bone strains in excess of normal habits will stimulate improvements in bone mass and strength.
- Multiple short load bouts (exercise sessions) are better than a single continuous exercise session (B.Beck, 2014)
- Athletes in sports involving high impact loads and heavy muscle resistance (eg gymnastics, basketball, rugby) have 15-20% higher bone mass than non-exercisers.
- Athletes who spend lots of time in weight supported exercise (eg swimming and cycling) exhibit bone mass that may actually be lower than sedentary individuals.
- Exercise started young will result in great benefits for the adult skeleton later in life.
- Children and adults with higher than average bone mass should be exposed to frequent (at least twice a week) bouts of weight bearing impact loading with a variety across their lifetime (for example jumps, landings, ploymetrics).
- If exercise is discontinued in adulthood bone strength gains will be lost.
- Exercising in minimalist shoes has been shown to be more beneficial than exercising in regular athletic shoes.
Bones are positively effected by exercise.
In summary don’t forget that exercise benefits will only be realised with proper nutrition. As a general guide 1000mg of calcium are required per day. Vitamin D is also important for the absorption of calcium from the stomach.
Adapted from ‘Exercise for Bone Strength’, B.Beck (APA Sports Physio Magazine).
Physio With a Finish Line™,
Brad Beer (APAM)
Author ‘You CAN Run Pain Free!’
Founder POGO Physio
Host The Physical Performance Show
Featured in the Top 50 Physical Therapy Blog