Osteoporosis is a disorder characterised by a reduction in bone mass causing the skeleton to become increasingly fragile. The more fragile bone is, the greater the risk of fractures.
Throughout our life, our bones are constantly being remodelled. Peak bone mass is reached at about 30 years of age. After this the amount of bone lost is greater than the amount of bone being formed. This affects both women and men, however in postmenopausal women, the rate of bone loss increases significantly.
The difference between normal bone loss associated with aging, and abnormal or excessive bone loss, is when the reduction in bone mass starts to cause pain and the risk of fracture increases. The most common sites of fracture are the vertebrae, the hip and the wrist.
Risk Factors & Prevention
There are numerous risk factors that may increase the chance of developing osteoporosis:
- Family history of osteoporosis
- Affects females more than males
- Affects whites caucasian people more than black people
- Post menopause
- Early menopause (including due to hysterectomy)
- Excessive alcohol consumption Excessive caffeine
- Over 50 years of age
- reduced physical activity
- not enough calcium in diet
- not enough Vitamin D (in diet or reduced exposure to sunlight)
- Certain medications
Whilst some of these risk factors are out of our control, by making some relatively simple lifestyle changes you may be able to help reduce your chance of developing osteoporosis. Eg. Eating healthy diet, increasing physical activity, avoid smoking, avoid excessive amounts of alcohol and caffeine. For more severe cases of osteoporosis hormone replacement therapy may be considered. This needs to be discussed with your doctor.
Exercise & Osteoporosis
There are many proven health benefits of regular exercise. Eg. Improved cardiovascular fitness, reduced risk of heart disease, reduced risk of diabetes as well as emotional benefits.
Exercise may also reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis. Exercise can help improve strength, co-ordination and balance which in turn can help prevent fractures. It’s also an important factor in increasing the peak bone mass reached during adulthood and can reduce the rate of bone loss associated with aging.
The best exercises for helping reduce the risk of osteoporosis are weight bearing exercises and resisted exercises.
Weight bearing exercise is any exercise where the entire body is being supported. Eg. Walking, running, golf, tennis, bowls, dancing.
Resisted exercise is any exercise where there is an increase in the load being placed on a muscle. Eg. Gentle weights.
How Often & How Long Should I Exercise?
Daily or every second day is best. The amount of time recommended is at least 30 minutes. This may consist of either a continuous period of exercise for 30 minutes, or two shorter sessions of 15 minutes. Eg. 15 minute walk in the morning and the evening.
It is important to ENJOY the exercise you do so that you find it easier to continue with it. It is also important to speak to your doctor before commencing any new exercise program. Your physiotherapist, or personal trainer can then advise you as to what exercise is best for you, help you design an exercise program and help get you started.
Remember, it is never too late to start exercising or to alter your diet!