A disease with no symptoms, osteoporosis, affects about 20 per cent of all men and 80 per cent of all women. As the bones gradually become weaker, they are more likely to break from a minor fall or, if left untreated, even from a sneeze. The most common fractures occur in the hip, wrist and spine, although any bone in the body can be affected.
A diagnosis of osteopenia or osteoporosis can be scary, leading some people to stop exercising. The truth is that those with low bone mass should make a point to exercise on a regular basis.
Being active has been shown to not only help prevent osteoporosis, but slow bone loss once it has already begun. Before beginning an exercise programme, it is important to check with your doctor, as the degree of bone loss determines what type of exercise is best.
Physicians can assess bone density and fracture risk by scanning the body with a special X-ray machine. Along with exercise, treatment may include dietary modifications and/or oestrogen replacement therapy.
The right kind of exercise
To build strength and bone mass, both weight-bearing and resistance training exercises are ideal. Weight-bearing exercises are those that require the bones to fully support your weight against gravity. Examples are walking, jogging, stair climbing, dancing or using an elliptical machine. Non-weight bearing exercises include biking, swimming, water aerobics and rowing. Walking as less as three times a week can benefit the bones.
Resistance training places a stress on the body to increases bone density. Start by lifting light weights, moving in a slow and controlled manner, increasing resistance as you become stronger.
What to avoid
If you have osteoporosis, don’t do:
Aerobics and high-impact activities like running, jumping, tennis.
Activities that involve rounding, bending and twisting of the spine.
Moving the legs sideways or across the body, especially when performed against resistance.
Rowing machines, trampolines.
Any movement that involves pulling on the head and neck.
Some of the risk factors that accelerate the onset of osteoporosis can be controlled. Those that can be controlled are: Sedentary lifestyle, excess intake of protein, sodium, caffeine and/or alcohol, smoking, calcium and Vitamin D deficiencies and taking certain medicines.
Body size (small frame), gender, family history and ethnicity are risk factors that cannot be controlled.Women can lose up to 20 per cent of their bone mass in the five to seven years after menopause, making them more susceptible to osteoporosis. It is never too early to start thinking about bone density.