Osteoporosis is a disease that affects the bones and can ultimately lead to an increase in the chance of fractures even from the lightest of touches. The actual cause is a reduced bone mineral density (BMD) and as this count reduces, the bone is more easily affected by stress in all forms. The disease mostly affects women of varying ages (even though men can get it too) and can vary in intensity. If diagnosed early enough it is perfectly manageable for most people and its progression can be diminished or reversed by a variety of lifestyle and dietary changes. In extreme forms of osteoporosis, surgery may be required to reconstruct bones where they are fractured. The most common areas are hip, vertebral, wrist and rib related. Exercise can help reverse some of the affects of osteoporosis.
Management of the disease can take many forms. Usually dietary changes are recommended to include a higher protein, calcium and vitamin D intake. Also, some medications have been developed to help. However, these should be utilized as a last resort. Hormone replacement therapy has also been used and known to have a positive effect.
Living with osteoporosis on a day by day basis can often be uncomfortable and lifestyle changes are often needed. Exercise has a number of benefits and helps the sufferer manage the effects more easily
By increasing the surrounding muscle strength by the bones, a person can reduce the amount of stress on the bones making them less prone to fracture. Certain exercises are encouraged to ensure that muscle mass is either built or does not decrease in key areas that a doctor believes a patient may be at risk. Low impact strength and resistance exercises can be used to share the workload between muscle and bone.
Poor posture is an obvious way that a body can become stressed and can have a huge effect to an osteoporosis sufferer. By improving core muscle strength, a person can reduce the weight and stress on the spine and keep the natural curves of the spine in alignment. With the spine being so crucial to everyday function, any damage here could be potentially life threatening.
A common effect of osteoporosis is pain in varying degrees. While some people suffer with mild and irregular discomfort, it can escalate to chronic and constant pain. Exercising the body will help the body deal with this by encouraging hormones and increasing circulation of the blood around the body. Endorphins that are released during exercise can also help a person feel less pain.
Before anybody with osteoporosis should begin exercising it would also be highly advisable to seek medical and professional advice. Certain exercises may just be too much for the body, and it is important to be supervised and/or reviewed. Before starting an exercise program, it would be advisable to get both a full physical assessment and have a bone density measurement taken – common sense would also dictate this is checked on a regular basis.
Exercising will certainly help a sufferer so long as it is done in a correct manner. Taking on core strength exercises would be a good place to start and then ‘soft’ exercises such as yoga, tai chi or Pilates should not cause too much pain or stress. Certain strength and resistance exercises could be undertaken for mild sufferers as well as low impact aerobics and water based exercises. For those who catch the disease early enough free weights and weight machines can help reduce the long term effects but this must be managed to avoid any short term damage.