A friend just told me that her mom fell a few months ago and broke her femur so badly that she needed surgery and a metal rod inserted in her leg. Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common scenario. According to Osteoporosis Canada, fractures from osteoporosis are more common than heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined.
If so many people have osteoporosis and the effects can dramatically affect your life, why don’t more people do something about it? Well, from my experience with speaking to those who have osteoporosis, many of the reasons stem from not knowing all the things they can do to strengthen their bones and prevent falls. As a personal trainer for seniors, I want to provide you and your loved one with five ways to live effectively with osteoporosis — and stay as healthy as possible!
- Get a bone density test. I know it sounds simple, but I recommend that this is where you should start whether you know you have osteoporosis, or are unsure if you have it. When you and your doctor determine your bone density, it provides you a starting point of the type of treatment you may need, such as medication. There are many people with weak bones who don’t change their lifestyle habits or are unaware of it until they break something. Knowing where you stand can help you make changes needed to prevent a future problem.
- Lift weights — and not just light ones. There is a correlation between lifting weights and improving your bone density. Although lifting weights is important, the problem I find with many seniors is that they don’t want to lift anything heavier than 2lbs. When you use weights that provide a sufficient load on your body, it provides the kinds of resistance that can positively affect your bone density.
- Take supplements or prescribed medication. While everyone who has osteoporosis should be taking calcium, they should also take a vitamin D supplement (or get it from fortified foods) to assist with the absorption of calcium. We get calcium from foods such as vegetables or dairy products, but it doesn’t hurt to also take a daily supplement. Vitamin D is something we can get from absorbing sunlight but, similar to calcium, daily supplements are a good way to get the proper daily requirements. In cases where people have really low bone density, medication is something that should be considered after speaking with your doctor.
- Avoid or modify certain movement or activities. Many people who have osteoporosis don’t realize that the activities or movements that they make can aggravate their condition. I am not suggesting to not move or be active, but people should avoid movements that require that they bend forward and twist their spine. Activities like golf can be tough on a person with osteoporosis because they require you to twist while using a weighted object. In these cases, a person should consult a trainer/therapist to help them modify their playing.
- Do balance training. It goes without saying that if you don’t fall, there is a great chance that you won’t break any bones. I would recommend that people first try exercises where their feet are together and then gradually increase the difficulty until they are able to stand on one foot.
Osteoporosis doesn’t have to be a debilitating condition. With the proper plan in place, people can still thrive and live effectively with it.
About the Author: Eric Daw is an Older Adult specialist and the Owner of Omni-Fitt. Omni-Fitt is committed to the health of seniors through fitness and all areas of wellness. Eric motivates and encourages seniors in Toronto to take responsibility through positive mentoring experiences. You can find Eric’s work at Omni-Fitt or follow him on Facebook.