Regular exercise develops muscles, but it also builds strong bones – which can help prevent crippling body conditions later in life.
More than 900,000 Australians live with osteoporosis, a disease that makes bones thin and fragile, easily broken by minor bumps or accidents.
“Exercise is very important to prevent osteoporosis because it will increase endurance, strengthen the muscles and increase the tendon elasticity, which is vital when trying to reduce the risk of falls,” said Dr Dragana Urosevic, a rehabilitation physician at Cairns Private Hospital.
“Even once a person is diagnosed with osteoporosis, exercise is still a really important part of their rehabilitation. The approach will be different for each person but we will come up with a program specifically designed for their needs,” she added.
World Osteoporosis Day is held every year on 20 October to raise awareness of the condition.
In Australia, it is most common in older women, affecting 29 percent over the age of 75, compared with 10 percent of men. People with unhealthy diets lacking calcium, and who do not get enough vitamin D, are particularly at risk.
Dr Urosevic is urging people of all ages to add some form of exercise to their daily routine.
“The ability of an exercise to build the bone is called osteogenic capacity, and it depends on the specific way the stress is applied to the bone during the exercise,” she said.
“High impact exercises such as running, impact aerobics, and gymnastics are more osteogenic but may be too hard for the elderly population.”
Dr Urosevic recommended older people try moderate to light impact exercises, such as resistance training, stair climbing, dancing, Pilates and tai chi.
“It’s all about improving someone’s balance to help reduce falls and increase their confidence so that they can lead a normal life despite osteoporosis,” she said.
Cairns Private Hospital offers a dedicated reconditioning rehabilitation program for patients diagnosed with osteoporosis in Queensland’s Far North.
“As we age the risk of osteoporosis increases so we need to increase a person’s confidence in their daily activities and mobility,” Dr Urosevic said.
“If they’re having falls they will inadvertently lose their confidence, so we aim to improve their balance and strength and we teach them falls prevention as well.”