Managing Osteoporosis Symptoms with Strength Training
Don't Let Osteoporosis Break You
As humans we tend to get shorter as we get older. In fact, it's normal to lose up to three centimeters in height as you age. This loss occurs due to compression and moisture loss in our spinal discs. While shortening slightly is considered normal, a loss of four centimeters or more of height as well as the appearance of a hump may be evidence of osteoporosis, a potentially dangerous metabolic condition.
Osteoporosis is a loss of bone density – which makes bones brittle and increases the risk of fracture. This process tends to occur over a long period of time, so clients are usually unaware of the loss of bone mass and strength. It is usually only once a fracture and pain occurs that the client may discover the onset of osteoporosis.
Who is at risk?
Currently, 1 in 2 women and 1 in 3 men over 60 years will have an osteoporotic fracture in Australia. With early diagnosis, we could avoid almost all vertebral fractures caused by osteoporosis. Unfortunately, osteoporosis most often occurs in elderly women, who usually do not go to a medical facility until it is too late.
Some indications to help determine the risk of osteoporosis are a family history or frequent fractures in the family. Fair-skinned and thinner women are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis. However, it can also occur as a result of other conditions, such as cases of clients with a history of hyperthyroidism, renal diseases, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes. In addition, some drugs, especially long-term use of cortisone, can cause the reduction of bone mass and thus increase the risk of fracture.
Despite this evidence, some women simply have a genetic predisposition to osteoporosis in menopause. The loss of bone mass can be up to 4% per year, which can cause a loss of up to 20% of bone mass in five years. Thus, the natural strength of our body diminishes and suffering a fractured vertebral or peripheral bone is only a matter of time. Men are far less likely to be affected by osteoprosis, which makes it even more difficult to diagnose the condition early.
Strength training to manage osteoporosis
Treatment for osteoporosis often requires the prescription of load bearing exercise. This may mean exercise such as walking or running but these exercises carry with them a risk of injury due to impact and repetition. Strength training is beneficial for osteoporosis as it applies a controlled force to the bones. This can be a bending or compressing force and in response the bone will lay down new bone cells to increase density. The important aspects of your training program for a diagnosis of osteoporosis are as follows:
- Variable load – to get bones to respond they must be loaded from all different directions
- Double programs – to address the above point, we sometimes recommend double programs to ensure a high variety of bone loading
- Focussed on the hip and spine – these two areas are the most important as fractures in this area can have the most serious effects
- Higher frequency of training – aim for three times per week, although two will still deliver good results
Strength training at Kieser is a low risk exercise with many benefits to clients with osteoporosis as it is:
- Low impact
- Completed with slow movements
- Supervised by an Exercise Physiologist
- Can slow the rate of bone loss or even increase bone density
- Can address bone loss in specific areas – i.e. lower back or hip
- Can reduce risk of falls by building strength