Being diagnosed with osteoporosis can be scary and overwhelming. We may feel fearful about trying to exercise because we don’t want to fall or somehow hurt ourselves even more. And some exercises should be avoided. If osteoporosis has led to broken bones or is very severe, then high impact exercises like running, hiking, tennis, and jumping should be avoided. These activities increase our risk of falling and breaking a bone. Other activities that involve lots of twisting should be avoided for a while too. These include golf, dance, and abdominal exercises that involve twisting your core. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t exercise! The good news is that there are plenty of exercises we can still do that will increase our bone strength. These exercises are safe to do and will actually help us be more stable overall because they will improve our balance, flexibility, and strength. These will actually reduce our risk of falling.
Here are the safest and most effective exercises for stronger bones.
1. Walking Stairs
Weight-bearing exercises are crucial to strengthening our bones. So, walking is the best option for cardio if we have osteoporosis. This is because jogging might put too much pressure on our bones, while cycling and swimming don’t give our bones a chance to work! We can begin walking anywhere or anytime. We don’t need to join a gym, and we can do it in our home, neighborhood, or park. It’s the cheapest and best way to get in shape!
Walking up stairs add extra benefits for for strength and cardio. Focus on pressing down with your foot on every step like you are trying to crush something. This would help activate and strengthen your glutes, muscles in your butt that are key for healthy knees and lower back.
2. Cardio Machines
Sometimes walking is not an option. We may not enjoy it, or the weather will not cooperate. If this is the case, then the gym offers some excellent alternatives. The elliptical machine is a great low-impact way to get cardio. We can also get a very intense workout that simulates running and still allows us to bear some weight. This is great if we used to run and miss the experience. Another low-impact option is the stair climber. Depending on the severity of our osteoporosis, stairs might cause a little anxiety. After all, it’s pretty easy to fall on stairs! However, the stair climber offers a safe way to get an excellent workout and allows us to practice our stair climbing. Don’t be fooled by the low-impact moniker. Stair climbers make everyone work!
3. Low Impact Aerobics
Not all aerobics classes have to be banished! Sometimes it’s nice to go to a class or follow a video that gets your heart pumping and gets you a little sweaty. The key is to choose low-impact classes that avoid jumping or excessive twisting. The good news is that many classes that want us to perform high impact moves can easily be modified to fit our needs. We can step side to side instead of jumping and step back and step up for burpees and squat thrusts. Another great option is swimming – the ultimate low-impact workout.
For a great low-impact aerobics class, try our Move to Music Series in Wysefit App!
Yoga is a wonderful, low impact exercise that can strengthen our body and increase flexibility. However, we must always check with our doctor before we begin practicing. This is because some movements, like forward bends, could cause the bones in our spine to fracture. However, most moves in yoga are safe for those with osteoporosis and are a gentle way to build strength. Yoga also focuses on balance moves, which are incredibly important for us. These moves should be practiced near a wall, so we can catch ourselves when we lose our balance. Yoga is also relaxing, which can help us feel less stressed about life, especially when dealing with osteoporosis!
Our very own yoga with Dr. Baxter Bell M.D. not only delivers all these benefits, but also helps you safely strengthen your muscles though Isometric holds, as well as concentric and eccentric muscle contractions.
If you’re interested in trying out yoga to help strengthen your body, try our Slow Outer Space Yoga For Strength Program!
5. Strength Training
Many of us aren’t aware that when we strengthen our muscles, we are also strengthening our bones. This means every time we lift a weight or perform a bodyweight exercise, we are helping our bones grow and increase their density. We can strength train in a variety of ways. We can use our own body weight, resistance bands, hand weights, machines, or barbells. The key is to be consistent and always increase the weight so that we are continually challenged. If we lift the same exact weight over and over again, then we’ll never see any progress! Below, you’ll find some strength training exercises that are especially good for those with osteoporosis.
When it comes to resistance strength training with osteoporosis, resistance bands are your best friends. They are the safest as well as some of the most effective tools to build strength and increase bone density.
You can check out our Building Strength Series with Liz Bradley in Wysefit App for more comprehensive training!
- Foot Stomps
This exercise is fun and works our hips while improving our balance. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and raise one foot and stomp down at least five times. Repeat on the other foot. You may want to be near a chair or wall to help you balance as you perform this exercise.
- Ball Sits
This exercise is excellent for our balance and core muscles. It should be done on an exercise ball. Begin by sitting on the ball with your feet flat on the ground and your back straight. Hold your arms out to form a T with your body and maintain your balance for one minute at a time.
Squats benefit our upper legs and glutes. When you squat, don’t go further than your body can. Shallow squats will still strengthen your muscles! Begin with your feet hip-width apart and bend at your knees, keeping your upper body straight up. Keep your weight in your heels and stick your bottom out as far as possible when you squat down.
- Hamstring Curls
Hamstring curls work the opposite muscles from squats. These muscles all work together to support our hips, and when there is an imbalance in these muscles, our joints suffer from having to overcompensate for the weaker muscles. To perform hamstring curls, hold onto the back of a chair or couch. Bend one knee and get your foot as close to your glutes as possible. Repeat on the other side.
- Bicep Curls
Strong biceps support both our shoulders and elbows. They also help us catch ourselves should we stumble! If you don’t own any weights, you can use water bottles or detergent bottles instead. Begin with your feet hip width apart. Keep your arms glued to your side as you bend your elbows and lift your weight as high as possible. It should meet your shoulder!
- Shoulder Lifts
For this exercise, you’ll need weights or your water bottles. Begin with your back straight and your shoulders down. Slowly raise your arms straight in front of you with your elbows slightly bent. Make sure that you do not raise your hands above your shoulders!
- Leg Lifts
This exercise is a great way to strengthen our hips. You can do leg lifts lying down or standing. If you perform them standing up, you will also challenge your balance! Begin by standing tall and slowly lift one leg to the side, while balancing on the other leg. If this is too difficult, then lay on your side and lift the leg on top before switching sides.
This exercise strengthens the muscles that surround our spine. This will help improve our posture and protect our spine. Begin by laying on your stomach on a mat, couch, or bed. Gently raise your upper body, but do not use your hands. Your back and core should do the lifting. Go as high as you can without causing any pain and then slowly lower yourself back to the ground.
We may feel like exercise is no longer an option after an osteoporosis diagnosis, but the opposite is true! Exercise is one of the most important things we can do to strengthen our bones and improve our balance. We should always begin with gentle, easy exercises, and work our way up to more intense activities. We should also try to do weight-bearing activities for at least 30 minutes every day. This, combined with a healthy diet, will make a huge difference in the health of our bones!