Exercise – Bones & Osteo

Osteoporosis is a silent insidious bone disease linked to hormonal changes and the menopause in women. But in many cases osteoporosis can be prevented, it’s not just about getting old as was previously assumed!  According the NHS osteoporosis affects over three million people in the UK. More than 500,000 people receive hospital treatment for fragility fractures (fractures that occur from standing height or less) every year as a result of osteoporosis.  One in two women and one in five men over the age of 50 will have a bone fracture mainly as a result of the condition.

You can help keep your bones strong by doing regular weight-bearing exercise. This is any kind of physical activity where you are supporting the weight of your own body, for example jogging, tennis and brisk walking.  Many people will find themselves presenting with osteoporosis as they age, often diagnosed after a fall.  Osteoporotic fractures can cause severe pain and disability most commonly occurring in the spine, hips and wrists.

Results of published research show that osteoporosis is preventable in many cases and that a healthy and active lifestyle can help guard against it and reduce the risk of falls and resulting painful fractures. The following unique exercises will help strengthen your bones, by targeting the bones most at risk of sustaining osteoporotic fractures. The bone strengthening exercises consist of easy movements designed specifically to strengthen and preserve bone thickness.

They are exercises you can do in your everyday life, around your home, or in the workplace, or in the garden.   An example of weight bearing is s simply hopping to strengthen ankles, hips and spine.

Easy and beneficial this weight bearing exercise can be done at any time anywhere.  Simply hold onto a worktop or banister, lift up your right leg transferring weight to left side and simply hop 10 times.   Turn around lift up your left leg transferring weight onto right side and repeat hopping 10 times.

You need do no more than 10 minutes of exercise a day, for three days a week, though I do ask that you build up slowly, to avoid possible injury or over-tiring.   These exercises may be performed in conjunction with the Top to Toe exercise programme.

Important it’s advisable to check with your doctor before commencing any exercise programme. If you already have osteoporosis lie down on the floor or bed to perform the floor exercises and support your neck with a small cushion or towel.  For those of you with vertebral fractures, painful, tender spines, and limited mobility some exercises may be too difficult.   The upper back and feet exercises can be performed whilst sitting down.

You will need a wall or unit for support, a hand towel, 2lb bag of sugar, a walking stick, small cushion and exercise mat for these exercises.

DO NOT ATTEMPT THESE EXERCISES IF YOU HAVE ADVANCED OSTEOPOROSIS

To strengthen hips and ankles

       Fidgety feet

Sit or stand with feet slightly apart.   Use a sweeping brush or walking stick and holding top of it for support, bend your knees inwards, lift heels and take weight on your toes.   Keeping body upright, bend knees and with small bobbing action push your heels out to the side, turning toes inwards.   Place weight back on toes, push knees out and bring heels together.   Repeat bobbing and turning feet working ankles 10 times.

To strengthen hips and ankles

       Edgy feet

Still holding pole for support take feet wider apart with toes facing forward.   Bend and knock knees together taking body weight onto your insteps.   Keep feet parallel and body upright, but with small bobbing action take knees out wide and transfer weight onto sides of feet.   Repeat 10 times

These two exercises can be done sitting in a chair to help keep ankles mobile.

To strengthen wrists and arms

       Push away

Stand at least a foot away from a wall with arms slightly outstretched.  Have your feet apart and arms up at shoulder level.  Place hands flat on wall and incline fingers inwards. Pull in your tummy, keep your head, neck and back in a straight line, bend your elbows out and lower yourself carefully towards the wall.   Take your body weight on your wrists and hands but don’t allow your body sag.   Now straighten your arms and push your body back upright. Repeat 10 times.

If possible keep your heels down; you will stretch out your calf muscles (back of lower leg) at the same time!

To strengthen wrists, arms and stretch out shoulders and spine

       Pull away

With feet hip width apart stand a foot away from a secure kitchen unit or banisters.   Bend forward from the waist and hold on securely with both hands.   Keeping your legs straight, drop your head down and flatten out your back.  Pull your body away from the support taking the weight on your wrists arms and shoulders.  Hold the stretch for 10 seconds.

To stretch out your entire body

       Reach up

From the previous position bend your elbows, pull yourself upright again and step forward with your right foot and bring your left to join it, close to the support.   Incline your hips towards the support and rise up onto your toes as high as possible.   If you feel balanced raise your arms and stretch your hands up to the ceiling.   Hold the stretch for 5 -10 secs before lowering heels and arms down.   Heel raises correct the body’s centre of gravity and improve balance helping to prevent falls.

To increase strength and suppleness of spine, arms and wrists

       Towel up

Stand with feet apart.   With arms out to your sides hold both ends of a small towel, taut out in front of you at shoulder level.   Lift both arms up and take the towel over and behind your head, and on as far down your back as comfortable.   Now raise it up and over your head still pulling hard at both ends of towel to keep it taut throughout.   Repeat 10 times.

To help strengthen wrists and spine and increase mobility in upper back

       Towel rub

Hold one end of a small towel with your right hand.   Place the other end of towel on and drop over your shoulder down behind your back.   Reach behind your waist with your left hand and grasp the other end of the towel.   Pull the towel taut by extending your right hand high up. Keeping the towel taut pull it down with your left hand in a sawing motion.   Repeat this sawing action 10 times.   Reverse hands and repeat 10 times.

To help strengthen your arms and wrists)

       Bottoms up

Take care with this more difficult exercise.  Sit down onto your mat with your knees bent, feet hip width apart and flat on mat.  Place your hands on the floor by your side shoulder width apart, slightly behind your bottom with fingers facing forward.   Carefully lift your bottom up a few inches transferring your body weight onto your hands.   Keeping your body upright push chest slightly forward and hold for 5 seconds if possible.  Repeat 5 times.

To mobilise hips, thighs and lower back. 

       Knees over

Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor and hands by the side of your bottom, palms down.   Keep both feet and shoulders in contact with the floor throughout this exercise.  Place a cushion (alternatively if more advanced a 2lb bag of sugar) between your knees.    Gripping the cushion/ weight hard roll both knees together over to the right side, as far as comfortable.   Relax for 5 seconds.   Bring your knees back to centre then roll them over to the left and relax for 5 seconds.   Repeat 5 times if possible.

To strengthen your hips and thighs.  

       Leg lift

Lie on your right side, legs stacked together and out straight, support your head with your right hand or rest head on cushion with right arm outstretched.   Place your left hand on the floor at waist level for balance.   Raise left leg up (not too high) and bring your right leg up to join it.   Squeeze your thighs, knees, calves and ankles together and hold for 5 seconds.   Repeat 5 times.  Relax both legs down.   Roll over and repeat exercise on the other side.

Alternatively, if this is too advanced, lie out on your right side as before with both legs straight but then bend your right leg to stabilise your position.   Lift up your left leg only and hold for 5 seconds.   Repeat 5 times.   Roll over bend your left leg and lift your right.   (Beginners may find it more comfortable to bend the lifting leg as well.)