Exercises To Avoid If You Have Osteoporosis

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If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, not all exercises are good for your body. You're going to want to avoid these exercises and positions to prevent unnecessary fractures.
Disclaimer: If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Well Guide contain information from peer-reviewed research, medical societies and governmental agencies; however, these articles are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

It might seem counterintuitive, but keeping up with a regular exercise routine is one of the best ways you can improve your balance and maintain bone strength with osteoporosis. Even better: It’s never too late to start, even if you’re a beginner.

But not all exercise is created equally. Certain activities, such as walking and strength training, provide multiple benefits for people with osteoporosis or osteopenia, including:

  • Building muscle strength and mass
  • Increase balance
  • Reduce risk for bone fractures or breaks
  • Improve posture
  • Reduced pain

However, certain other exercises can increase the risk for falls, fractures, or breaks.  

Exercises to Avoid with Osteoporosis

It’s always important to involve your doctor when starting a new exercise routine. Your doctor will guide you in developing a safe-and-effective workout regimen, but it’s also essential to understand why certain exercises are dangerous for osteoporosis.

In general, you should avoid any exercise that involves excessive bending, twisting, or jumping to decrease your risk of experiencing osteoporosis-related problems. 

High-Impact Exercise

Weight-bearing exercises, or exercises that involve supporting your body weight, are shown to increase bone mineral density and improve the quality of life in people with osteoporosis (Shanb, 2014).

Weight-bearing exercise falls into two categories: low impact and high impact.

High-impact exercises include running, aerobics, and rollerblading, involve a lot of movement and jumping, and put more pressure on bones and joints, increasing the chances for breaks. Falls are also common with high-impact exercise, which can prove dangerous for people with osteoporosis.

What to do instead: low-impact exercise. 

Low-impact exercises like walking, dancing, and the elliptical machine provide a cardiovascular workout much like high-impact exercises but don’t put as much pressure on the body. 

Crunches

Adding core exercises to your routine can help improve your posture and strength, but crunches are one exercise to avoid with osteoporosis. 

The forward flexion—or forward bending—with crunches causes compression on the vertebrae in the spine, leading to fractures (Sözen, 2017).

What to do instead: Gentle core exercises.

It’s possible to build core strength and improve posture without putting undue pressure on the spine. A few exercises that fit this include:

Outdoor Sports

Getting in a round of golf or a game of tennis on a nice day can be a great way to relax and have fun with friends, but these activities can also be dangerous if you have osteoporosis. The same goes for extreme winter sports like skiing.

The twisting, bending, and reaching common with these sports put added pressure on the spine and could lead to fractures in the spine or other bones (Ekin, 1993).

Fixed-Weight Machines

Consistent weight training with free weights or resistance bands is shown to preserve and build bone and muscle mass (Hong, 2018).

Resistance training using fixed-weight machines at the gym can also provide benefits, but it can also be dangerous. The reason: many of these machines were made for men, not women, and it may be challenging to use the machine without added bending, twisting, and flexion. This added pressure can put added pressure on the spine, leading to fractures (Sözen, 2017).

Are Yoga and Pilates Safe with Osteoporosis?

Both yoga and Pilates provide bone-strengthening benefits for people with osteoporosis.

A small 2016 study found that yoga improved bone mineral density in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis (Motorwala, 2016). Another study found that just 12 minutes of yoga a day improve bone density in the hips, femur, and spine (Lu, 2016). Studies on Pilates workouts also showed that it had bone-building benefits, and the study participants also reported reduced pain (Angın, 2015).

That said, certain yoga and Pilates moves that involve excessive bending, twisting, or flexion should be avoided to keep unnecessary pressure off the spine.

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References

  1. Benedetti M, Furlini G, Zati A, Mauro G. The Effectiveness of Physical Exercise on Bone Density in Osteoporotic Patients. BioMed Res Int. 2014;21(3):176-81. doi:10.4103/2230-8229.142972.
  2. Shanb A, Youssef E. The impact of adding weight-bearing exercise versus nonweight bearing programs to the medical treatment of elderly patients with osteoporosis. Journal Fam Community Med. 2018;21(3):176-81. doi:10.1155/2018/4840531.
  3. Sözen T, Özışık L, Başaran NÇ. An overview and management of osteoporosis. Eur J Rheumatol. 2017;4(1):46-56. doi:10.5152/eurjrheum.2016.048.
  4. Ekin JA, Sinaki M. Vertebral compression fractures sustained during golfing: report of three cases. Mayo Clinic Proc. 1993;68(6):566-70. doi:10.1016/s0025-6196(12)60371-1.
  5. Hong AR, Kim SW. Effects of Resistance Exercise on Bone Health. Endocrinol Metab (Seoul). 2018;33(4):435-444. doi: 10.3803/EnM.2018.33.4.435.
  6. Motorwala ZS, Kolke S, Panchal PY, Bedekar NS, Sancheti PK, Shyam A. Effects of Yogasanas on osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. Int J Yoga. 2016;9(1):44-8. doi:10.4103/0973-6131.171717.
  7. Lu YH, Rosner B, Chang G, Fishman LM. Twelve-Minute Daily Yoga Regimen Reverses Osteoporotic Bone Loss. Top Geriatr Rehabil. 2016;32(2):81-87. doi:10.1097/TGR.0000000000000085.
  8. Angın E, Erden Z, Can F. The effects of clinical pilates exercises on bone mineral density, physical performance and quality of life of women with postmenopausal osteoporosis. J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2015;28(4):849-58. doi:10.3233/BMR-150604.