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What are the most effective activities to limit osteoporosis?

What is osteoporosis?

The term “osteoporosis” translates to “porous bone”. It designates a condition causing weakening of the bones. The risk of sudden and unexpected fractures is higher in people with osteoporosis. Osteoporosis involves loss of bone mass and strength.

The disease frequently manifests without any symptoms or pain, and is usually detected when weakening bones cause painful fractures. The most common fractures affect the hips, wrists and vertebrae.

What causes osteoporosis?

Scientists have understood how osteoporosis develops, without determining the exact causes. Bones are made up of living tissue that is constantly growing. The inner part of healthy bone looks like a sponge, called the trabecular bone. An outer shell of dense bone covers the spongy bone called cortical bone.

When osteoporosis appears, the “holes” in the “sponge” grow and become more numerous, which weakens the internal part of the bone. Bones support the body and provide protection for vital organs. They also serve as a reservoir for calcium and other minerals. When the body requires calcium, it breaks down and rebuilds bone. This phenomenon, called bone remodeling, provides the body with the necessary calcium while maintaining bone strength.

In principle, bone building is greater than bone loss until approximately age 30. From the age of 35, bone deterioration occurs at a faster rate than bone formation, progressing the loss of bone mass. In case of osteoporosis, the loss of bone mass is faster.

The importance of physical activity for people with osteoporosis.

A sedentary lifestyle, poor posture, poor balance and weak muscles increase the risk of fractures. A person with osteoporosis can improve their health through exercise in several ways, including:

  • Reduction of bone loss
  • Preservation of remaining bone tissue
  • Improving physical condition
  • Improved muscle strength
  • Developing the sense of balance
  • Reducing the risk of bone fractures due to falls
  • The reduction of pain
  • Improved mood and vitality.

Recommended exercises for people with osteoporosis.

The exercises recommended for people with osteoporosis are:

  • Weight-bearing aerobic exercise, such as dancing
  • Resistance training using free weights such as dumbbells, resistance bands, body weights, or weight machines
  • Exercises to improve posture, balance and body strength, such as tai chi.

Ideally, weekly physical activity should include some element of these three groups.

Swimming and aquatic exercises for people with osteoporosis.

Swimming and exercises in water (such as water aerobics or hydrotherapy) are not weight-bearing exercises because the buoyancy of water opposes the effects of gravity. However, exercising in water can improve your cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength.

People with severe osteoporosis or kyphosis (curvature of the upper back) who are at high risk for bone fractures may agree that swimming or water exercise is their favorite activity.

Walking for people with osteoporosis.

Although walking is a weight-bearing exercise, it doesn’t greatly improve bone health, muscle strength, fitness, or balance. Unless it is done at a high intensity, such as at a faster pace, for long periods of time (such as bushwalking) or on difficult terrain, such as hills. However, for people who are otherwise inactive, walking can be a safe way to introduce physical activity.

Exercises to avoid for people with osteoporosis.

A person with osteoporosis has weakened bones that are prone to fracture. She should avoid activities that:

  • Involve forward bending of the spine, such as the abdominals.
  • Increase the risk of falling.
  • Require sudden, powerful movements unless introduced gradually as part of a progressive program.
  • Require a powerful twisting motion, like a golf swing, unless the person is used to such motions.


* Presse Santé strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the advice of a health professional.

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