Have you been diagnosed with osteoporosis? Are you totally confused about what that means for your movement and exercise?

If so, you’re not alone!
Many doctors land heavily on one side of the scale or the other: they give you no guidance about how to move or they offer very scary, extreme limitations with no reassurance about what you CAN do!
They are generally doing the best they can, but they aren’t movement specialists.
Let me help you out!
First of all, we really can move. In fact we need to move a lot! And yes, I mean we. I have osteoporosis too!

We know that exercise is one of the best ways of maintaining our bone density and our bone cells respond well to variety and lots of load. If you’ve always been an exerciser, you may have to make some modifications, but keep moving!

If you’re new to exercise, the good news is that almost any movement is a good place to start. The most noticeable increases in bone density seem to happen with people who’ve previously been sedentary, so that’s a bonus!

Why does our bone density affect how we should move?

Osteoporosis is a condition that decreases our bone density more than other people, leaving us vulnerable to fractures. Everyone loses some bone mass as they age, but we lose more than average.

When we move in certain ways our bones may not be able to withstand the load and we end up breaking something. Spine, hips and wrists are the top three fracture sites. And we don’t want that!

Keeping in mind that we don’t want to turn into stiff robots and that we want to be strong, mobile, agile and awesome, here are the spine motions we want to limit (not avoid completely) in our exercise and everyday lives.

  • Flexion (forward bending)
  • Rotation (twisting)
  • Side Bending 

We also want to limit combining those motions together, so bending forward and twisting at the same time or side- bending and twisting.

But life includes all those motions! You need to rotate to check your blind spot, for instance.

So how do we manage? 

There are specific things we look at to decide if a motion is something we want to limit.

Is the motion:

  • Sustained (held for a long time like a standing forward fold in yoga)
  • Repeated (like a series of roll ups in Pilates or sit ups)
  • Weighted (like rolling up and down holding weights or heavy household items or your own body weight also like a sit up)
  • End range (as far as you can go)
  • Forceful (as it sounds)
  • Rapid (also as it sounds)

In terms of legs and hips, we avoid end-range, forced motions in order to limit torque on the femoral neck (the narrowest part of your leg bone before it goes into the hip socket). But other than that, we really want to do as much hip work as we can, in all directions! That forced end range usually comes in situations where you’re standing and twisting your pelvis vigorously like shoveling, raking heavy leaves, stuff like that. The solution is to always face the direction you’re working.

You can use that list as a way to decide if a motion makes sense for you or not as you exercise, take a Pilates or yoga class or move through your day.

Is it gentle? Is it controlled? Is it something you can do smoothly and without too much effort? Great! Go for it… maybe.

The other consideration is your degree of bone loss.

Osteoporosis isn’t the same for everyone. Medical history, the cause of your bone loss, your degree of fracture risk, co-existing conditions… there are a lot of factors that determine how careful you need to be to both protect yourself AND to stay as active as possible.

This feels like a good place to say that you are your own safety officer. This is not medical advice and I can’t see you move. Make good choices and sound decisions for your own body and your own health. We’re all different and if you have had multiple fractures, please be more cautious than someone who hasn’t!

I have to say again, because it can be hard to hear in the midst of the overwhelm of a new osteo diagnosis, that you CAN move, you CAN be strong, you CAN be flexible. Your bones may have lost mass, but you, your whole person, you are not fragile.

So now that we’ve talked about what we want to limit, what do we want to do?

Here are the recommendations from Osteoporosis Canada:

  • 15 minutes of balance work every day. Try my free mini course Better Balance for ideas!
  • 2 or 3 strength training sessions per week. Check out this squats and lunges tutorial (with special tips if you’re new to squats or have knee issues)
  • 150 minutes a week of other moderate to vigorous activity, but the balance and strength training come first. This category includes walking, jogging, dancing, yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, biking, hiking and whatever other activities you love!

Strength training covers arms, shoulders, back, abs, hips and legs.  You can use body weight, resistance bands or weights and you want to increase your challenge over time to have the most effect on your bones and your strength! Research shows that the best way to build bone mass is to commit to a life-long practice of weight training.

Spine-sparing strategies every day (that’s learning how to use your hips and core to move around rather than flexing your spine all the time)

I believe we also need foot work, joint mobility, core work, upper back work, stretch and release time and specific hip work in addition to what you get during your strength training time.

I know it sounds like a lot, but we can actually fit a lot of that into our every day life! Balance while you brush your teeth, do back exercises while you’re at your desk, roll your feet while you read a book… it all adds up!

It takes time for bones to remodel, to adapt to new exercise and new stimulation. They also stop responding when we stop exercising, so welcome to your new active lifestyle!

I can help you figure this out… book a free mentorship call!

Book your free call today!

This mentorship call is about exploring your challenges, your goals and finding the best ways I can help you on your path to a confident, active life, regardless of your bone density!

Ready to take charge? To start moving in ways that serve your bones, your muscles and your brain?

Great! Let’s do it.

Here are some totally spine-smart exercises from YouTube:

Prefer your moves in smaller bits?

Check out some Instagram inspo!

I know that an osteoporosis diagnosis can be scary and overwhelming, but I’m here to tell you that you’re ok. That you have what it takes to manage this and that you’re not alone!

I’m here for you. Send me an email, join our lovely supportive Facebook group Osteoporosis & Movement Solutions, find me on Instagram or book a free mentorship call with me!

Here’s to your active, confident, vibrant, amazing self, whatever your bone density may be!

xo Alison

Alison Crouch

I’m the owner of Boomerang Pilates and creator of Osteoporosis: The MoveSMART Method.

Movement, thoughts and feelings and tea! These are some of my favourite things!

After many years of teaching people with osteoporosis, I was diagnosed with osteo myself. After a challenging few weeks getting used to my diagnosis, I fully committed to creating classes, workshops and programs that serve my community.

I bring you not only my years of therapeutic movement work, but also my lived experience!

Do you need to have osteoporosis or osteopenia to enjoy my work? Nope, my stuff works for everyone! But it’s a safe place for you to move and move well.

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