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Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

Preventing Osteoporosis Through Exercise

Oct 27, 2013 05:47AM

Women often want an exercise program to strengthen their bones. Before beginning such a program, it is recommended that they share a Bone Density Scan (DXA scan) with a professional health care or fitness trainer, to see where the majority of bone loss is and whether they have osteoporosis or osteopenia. Based on the results of the bone scan and the individual’s balance, posture and overall health, an enjoyable and effective program can then be designed.

The three major components of an effective bone strengthening program are weight bearing exercise, resistance training and balance exercises. Weight bearing exercise is defined as an exercise in which you hold your body weight, like walking, stair climbing and running. Swimming and cycling are wonderful cardiovascular, non-impact exercises but are not weight bearing. To prevent bone loss, an effective walking program must include fast-paced walking for a minimum of 30 minutes, four to five times per week.

Resistance training includes exercises that use your body weight, exercise bands or weights to create a muscular contraction. There are several systems that include resistance training such as Pilates, GYROTONIC® exercise and Power Plate. It is important that your trainer is knowledgeable about osteoporosis and knows which movements to include and which to avoid. Bending your spine with resistance can lead to spinal injury. A known risk factor in falling is the actual fear of falling, so avoid instructors that make you fearful of moving. 

Fear of movement is not helpful for your mind, body or bones. It is better to learn how to move your spine in a healthy way, rather than limit your movement. Postural exercises should be incorporated into your resistance training as well. Strengthening your back muscles not only helps prevent bone loss, it also helps with your posture. Also, make sure to incorporate exercises that focus on the areas where you have the most bone loss.

Balance exercises can be easily incorporated into your daily life. Using care, stand on one foot while you brush your teeth or try walking down the hall with one foot in front of the other as though you are walking on a tight rope. In addition, massaging your feet and moving your ankles brings awareness to your feet and thus, increases balance.

Remember to have fun and enjoy the activity you are doing while preventing osteoporosis. Your program must be enjoyable, otherwise you will not stick to it. Find a way to move that feels good and is convenient for you. Also, challenge yourself enough to stimulate your bones to grow, but don’t push so hard that you get injured. In general, find a weight that you can lift with good form about eight times or until you feel muscle fatigue. Listen to your body and the signals it is giving you. You can always seek out a physical therapist or highly trained exercise coach to help develop a safe and effective program that works for you.

For more information about osteoporosis and to find support groups in the Washington metro area, visit

Justine Bernard-Edwards is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and master trainer of the GYROTONIC® method at Elements Fitness and Wellness Center in Washington, D.C. She specializes in Osteoporosis and is a National Osteoporosis Foundation support group leader.


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