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Osteoporosis and Exercise


Osteoporosis is the most common metabolic bone disease. It is characterised by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue, which can lead to enhanced bone fragility and an increase in fracture risks. We most commonly see the effects of Osteoporosis in the spine, where we see abnormal posture as a result of the degeneration of fragile bones. Secondly, we see the effects in the increased risk of hip fractures as a result of a fall. Low bone mass is a measure of bone quantity and also the quality of the tissue. Both of these factors contribute to Osteoporosis.

Research estimates that 30-50% of Australian women and 15-30% of men will suffer an Osteoporotic fracture in their lifetime. The risk of developing low bone mass increases with age, and it is estimated that 30% of women over the age of 50 have low bone mass.

Osteoporosis is caused by an imbalance in the amount of bone that is laid down and taken away, which the body regulates through special hormones and chemical reactions, to maintain the health of bone tissue. Old or damaged bone is removed and replaced with new, healthy bone. During aging, this process becomes unbalanced, and a lower volume of new bone is laid down, eventually leading to Osteoporosis. The most common sites in the skeleton that are affected by Osteoporosis are the lower back, hip and wrist. These sites are scrutinised during a bone density scan, to assess Osteoporosis and the impact of lifestyle changes and/or medication.


In terms of preventing Osteoporosis or Osteopenia (think of this as ‘pre – Osteoporosis’), exercise plays an important role. The evidence recommends exercising at least three times per week for at least 30 minutes. Weight bearing exercise, including walking is acceptable, and has shown benefits in pre and post-menopausal women. Research also shows that the benefits associated with exercise are quickly lost after cessation of physical activity. So consistency is the key for long term benefits. Since bone turns over at a very slow rate, it is important to be mindful that the effects of an exercise regime can take time to show on a bone density scan. These scans are normally performed every two years, due to the slow turnover of bone tissue.

Research into pre and post-menopausal women who participated in resistance training and high impact weight bearing exercise, showed a gain in bone mass in the lower back and hip by 1 to 2%. The research also suggested moderate impact exercise such as stair climbing, walking and jogging were best at preserving bone strength, in combination with resistance training. Resistance training with heavier loads and fewer repetitions has been proven to produce the best results. These result in an increase in muscle strength, and thus, bone strength. Adaptations in bone strength are site specific, meaning that an exercise program should be well balanced. The program should include exercises for upper body, lower body and trunk muscles.

Optimum has a great Osteoporosis Program. If you know anyone who suffers from Osteoporosis, please encourage them to arrange an appointment to speak with our team regarding bone density, and how exercise can help stop any further onset of this disease.

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