Updated: Apr 13, 2020
There are many great things about getting older. We become wiser, we have more stable relationships and have clearer priorities. If we are lucky, we may have more time to do the things we enjoy. As our responsibilities change with big lifestyle changes like retirement and grandchildren, it is as important as ever that we look after number one. As we age, our body undergoes many changes, one of which is the slow progressive reduction in bone mineral density. A simple way to visualise this is a bone that becomes more porous. This is a normal process that every person will experience during their life and actually starts from the ages of 25-30 years old.
Osteoporosis is defined as a decrease in bone mineral density (BMD) that is beyond what would be expected based on your age and gender. Nearly two-thirds of Australians over 50 have either osteoporosis or osteopenia. A common misconception is that only post-menopausal women experience a loss of BMD, however, 30% of diagnosed cases in Australia are male.
First Steps - Know your T-Score
Your T-score is the result of your BMD scans, this number is a comparison of your score against a healthy age-matched BMD score. A T-score of -1 to -2.5 is classified as osteopenia, meaning there is some reduction in BMD, with an associated increased risk of fractures and developing osteoporosis. A T-score of -2.5 or less is classified as osteoporosis indicating a high risk of fracture.
Prevention vs Cure
If your T-score is higher than -1, it is important to continue to follow the guidelines of healthy eating and ensuring you continue to do enough exercise. The great news is that a balanced diet and exercise both promote bone density, so we can help prevent osteoporosis before the onset. But how does this work? Through activities that involve weight bearing and loading, bones will respond by modifying their shape, structure and size to become strong to deal with those forces that are regularly applied to them. If we exercise in an effective way, our muscles generally get bigger and stronger, although often overlooked as we cannot see it, this too happens to our bones.
What Exercise is Appropriate?
As we get older, we may have niggles or injuries that have built up over the years in addition to many other health-related factors to consider. As no two people are the same, what will be suitable for one person will not always be suitable for another. Factors such as your previous exercise history, current strength and fitness levels, medical conditions and injury history all play a role in what exercise is appropriate for you. We have found that an individualised approach with careful guidance always gets better results.
What Exercise is Best?
Did you know that of all the athletes, gymnasts have the highest levels of BMD? While regular walking, swimming and cycling are often prescribed to the ageing population, these have not been shown effective in improving BMD. There are 3 vital components of a good exercise program for someone with Osteoporosis is:
1. Resistance training (lifting weights) is strongly supported by research, it is never too late to start! The greatest benefits from resistance training come with a progressive increase in difficulty over time, a minimum of two sessions per week with whole body and high-velocity movements.
2. Balance training. Generally, there are no actual symptoms of low BMD and the main reason for managing your osteoporosis with exercise is to reduce the risk of a fracture. By improving balance we may be able to reduce the risk of falls and subsequent fractures. Balance training must be challenging to have an effect, but above all else, it must be performed safely!
3. Safe and appropriate impact loading, which can involve many movements including, jumping, hopping, skipping, stepping, and changes in direction. While you may be thinking “I’m too old for that!” there are precautions and modifications that can be made to tailor this type of training to you. The benefits of this style of training are a resultant of the high loading on the bones and relatively low dose needed to elicit a response.
Above all else, enjoy it! These are your golden years, there are many ways we can incorporate exercise into our lifestyle to better our health and wellbeing. Whether it be a social aspect of participating in group classes, maybe you enjoy exercising in the great outdoors, there are a multitude of effective ways we can exercise for osteoporosis. For further information on exercises that will be beneficial specifically for you, how you can incorporate safe exercise into your lifestyle and things that should be avoided, contact us today.