There are a few categories of diseases that affect elderly individuals much worse than those in their youth. Osteoporosis is one of these diseases. The condition is widespread in people ages 55 and older, and can eventually lead to problems of immobility if not addressed in due time. It is a bone disease characterized by irregular growth patterns.
Health Concerns Stemming from Osteoporosis in Older Adults
Contrary to popular belief, a person does not need to have rapid bone deterioration in order to have osteoporosis. While degeneration is quite common, other issues may include the body’s failure to produce adequate bone density. In some cases these problems are compounded (i.e. a patient loses their bone structure at the same time that no replacement occurs). This particular set of circumstances is not uniform, but is an example of what can potentially happen.
Brittle bones not only make the completion of daily tasks more difficult, they also exponentially increase the likelihood of fractures. Many elderly men and women are prone to broken hips, for instance, simply because their bone density offers little in the way of structural support. Whereas an individual in their 20s or 30s may suffer a bruise from a short fall, the exact same injury could be debilitating for someone who has osteoporosis. Higher susceptibility to fractures necessitates taking preventative measures.
Why Exercise is Essential for those with Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis cannot be cured, but, according to the National Institutes of Health, it can be prevented. Additionally, the rate of bone loss can be kept in check with dietary changes and regular exercise. The worst thing a patient can do is facilitate the deterioration process — and that means taking a sedentary, cautionary approach. Staying active is an osteoporosis patient’s best defense. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, regular exercise has been found to significantly increase bone strength, thus offsetting the effects of bone loss and making the existing bone less brittle.
Certain movements fare better than others when it comes to osteoporosis prevention. Since many elderly men and women also suffer from joint problems, particularly in the form of osteoarthritis, a routine which consists only of high-impact exercises is not favorable. Instead, a combination of these movements with low-impact and non-impact (i.e. resistance training that does not involve weights) is an ideal solution for most osteoporosis patients.
After evaluating the degree of bone loss and its current state, your loved one’s doctor will determine which exercise regimen is best for their individual circumstances. Adherence to this plan as well as a diet high in calcium and iron will ensure beneficial results.
As always, be sure to clear a routine with your doctor first. Individuals who have already broken bones as a result of osteoporosis — particularly bones in the spine — may want to be extra careful. Slow, steady movements are best for all of these exercises and it’s important to maintain good form. A physical therapist can assist in this realm to be sure that exercise is more of a help to those with osteoporosis than a hindrance.
High-impact movements are not strongly advised for patients who have previously suffered a fracture, though this does not mean such movements should be ruled out entirely. Osteoporosis-prevention exercises include walking, jogging, dancing, weight lifting, and hiking. Any activity that puts stress on the bones, albeit in safe amounts, will aid in density strengthening.
How do you or your loved one work around your osteoporosis? Tell us in the comments below.
For more information, please review our Osteoporosis Resources.