Yoga for Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease of low bone mass and structure deterioration of bone tissue, leading to increased chance of fractures of the hip, spine, wrist, and any other bone in the body. Osteoporosis is a disease that affects men and women of any ethnic group. The National Osteoporosis Foundation says, in America, 55 percent of everyone over age of 50 have low bone mass.  One in two women and one in four men over the age of 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in his or her lifetime.  When a person experiences an osteoporosis-related fracture quality of life is reduced; emotional status, mobility, social interactions and sleep are all affected.  Some people are admitted into long-term care, and mortality is increased by as much as 32 percent.  These are not happy, feel-good facts.  Lucky for us, there has been a lot of work in this area, and Dr.  Fishman has come up with some great yoga solutions,  I recommend his book Yoga for Osteoporosis (Fishman, 2010).

Some tips for reducing your risk of falling and fracturing your bones:

  • Build strength. Stronger muscles put more stress on your bones which causes the bones to create more bone tissue and stronger bones.  Stronger muscles also help you to maintain balance better.  Building muscle strength is a win-win.
  • Keep moving to keep sharp. When we sit around too much, we lose alertness and confusion is more likely.  This confusion causes us to not recognize objects, such as vehicles, furniture and stairs.  Get your exercise (more on the best type of exercise below) and stay active.
  • Work for balance. Balance is something that can be improved in many cases and people that have better balance, fall less.  Some common factors that decrease balance include: dehydration, lack of sleep, stress and some medications…
  • Eat well.  Some interesting things to keep in mind: if you take in too much protein, caffeine, alcohol, or animal fat, your body will “give up” calcium from your bones to metabolize the above-mentioned items.  If you eat too much salt, calcium will be “carried away” with the salt when you urinate.  With this in mind, you could be getting the right amounts of nutrients, but trade them internally for your indulgences.  Work with a professional to determine if you are are eating the right amounts of the right things.  You might even want to be tested to see if you are absorbing your nutrients at normal rates.

Weight bearing exercises are what is needed to combat osteoporosis, right?

Weight bearing is more than holding a weight at the gym, or just standing or walking.  In order for weight bearing to be effective, dynamic tension is needed by one muscle or muscle group working in opposition of another to cause a load on the bone.   When the bones are under stress, they build more bone to support this load; put another way, bones strengthen only when and where needed.  This oppositional muscular force is greater than gravity and strengthens the bones faster than just walking or working on machines at the gym.  Some studies have shown that bone building can happen in as fast as eight seconds.  Some sports like pickle ball, biking and swimming have the body in motion, and this eight second hold is not observed.  Yoga poses are almost always held for more than eight seconds with the muscles opposing each other the entire time.  Yoga helps you strengthen bone and renew cartilage with opposing muscles by applying no-impact stress and increasing range of motion.

Some other reasons that yoga is a great exercise for Osteoporosis include:

  • yoga is low cost and portable
  • you can be any age to practice yoga
  • injuries are not common when you practice with a qualified teacher
  • yoga promotes independence and personal health responsibility

There are many other forms of exercise that are good for you in many ways, and you might consider these sports safe.  The most common sports that come to mind in our area include biking, pickle ball, working out at the gym, walking, running, and swimming.  When I think of these other exercises, I can think of people that have hurt themselves in every example I listed above; some of those injuries were substantial and ending in surgery.  As you age, it is more and more important to find activities that both lower your risk of injury and improve your health at the same time.  I am glad you are practicing yoga.  We just had a workshop about this same subject, and there is another Osteoporosis Workshop scheduled for Dec 2019.

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