My wife has been diagnosed with osteoporosis and I have been reading that strength training is a good way to increase bone mineral density. What recommendations do you have for her?

Strength training can be very effective at increasing bone mineral density specifically when combined with cardiovascular training as well. An overall increase in one’s fitness level will aid in reducing the likelihood of falling, which can result in fractures of the bone. The important thing to remember with strengthening in the client with osteoporosis is to progress slowly, beginning with a single set of 15 repetitions of 8-10 exercises, done at least 2 days per week (ACSM recommendations).

However, there are some things to be careful with when it comes to strengthening and osteoporosis, The American College of Sports Medicine lists “impact exercises” as contraindicated for people with osteoporsis, these include: jumping, running, or jogging. ACSM states: “These exercises cause high compressive forces in the spine and lower extremities, and can cause fractures in weakened bones.” Another activity that absolutely must not be done by people with osteoporosis is spinal flexion (bending forward) as in sit ups or toe touches.

As for the exercises that can be incorporated in to a safe and effective training program, these include anything that challenges balance and agility in order to reduce the incidence of falling. A good example of a balance exercise is simply standing on one foot to help strengthen the legs. Exercises to strengthen one’s posture are also very important. One of my favorite postural exercises is to stand against the wall with your feet about 12 inches away and knees slightly bent. Keep your shoulders down and away from your ears, place the backs of your hands against the wall and at your sides. Press in to the wall and hold 20 seconds at first. If this is not a challenge, begin to ‘walk’ your hands up the wall while maintaining contact with the wall. Repeat 2-3 times.

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