What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition where your body loses bone density and they become very brittle and fragile. People with osteoporosis are at a higher risk of getting a fracture of their hips, spine and wrist should they fall.
It particularly affects women. In fact, 1 in 2 women have osteoporosis by the age of 50.
The reason women are more susceptible is because as they get older because as oestrogen levels drop with menopause bone density does too.
Pregnant women can also experience bone loss. If a mum doesn't have enough calcium intake the baby can draw from her bones leading to bone loss too.
Women who have had a hysterectomy before the age of 45 are also at risk of osteoporosis. Female athletes are also at risk as may suffer from the female athlete triad, a combination of abnormal eating for training, menstrual changes or missed or stopped periods and low bone density due to lack of periods. All of these make them at risk of osteoporosis.
Things get worse if you end up having a hip fracture. Within 1 year, 33% need some form of care and 24% die!
For men the risk of osteoporosis is very low, but for it can happen in men with low levels of testosterone, on excessive steroids or have hypogonadism.
Can exercise help with osteoporosis?
Special medicines, diet (i.e. calcium-rich foods and vitamin D supplements) and exercise can help slow down the progress of osteoporosis. There are even some hormones that can be prescribed to help slow it down and build up bone density.
Regular exercise plays a crucial role in the management and prevention of osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, and weightlifting, are often recommended to strengthen bones.
"Many people misinterpret the phrase “weight-bearing exercise” to mean that they should do heavy weight lifting, but that’s not the case...to keep your leg, foot and hip bones healthy, all you need is to bear your own body weight as you move around. That said, to keep the bones in your upper body healthy, strengthening exercises can be helpful, but light weights will suffice." Nicole Wright - It's Never Too Early to Think About Bone Health - The New York Times.
However, for individuals with osteoporosis, high-impact activities may not be suitable due to the risk of falls and fractures.
This is where Pilates comes into play, offering a gentle yet effective alternative.
Can Pilates help with osteoporosis?
Pilates is a low-impact exercise system that focuses on core strength, flexibility, and balance, and has gained popularity as a way to help strengthen bones.
Posture and alignment
One of the fundamental principles of Pilates is proper alignment. Through a series of exercises that emphasize elongation and extension, Pilates helps improve posture and body mechanics. By aligning the spine correctly, it can alleviate stress on the bones, reducing the risk of fractures and promoting better bone health.
Builds Core Strength
The core muscles play a vital role in providing stability and support to the spine.
Pilates exercises target these muscles, including the deep abdominals, pelvic floor, and back muscles, promoting a strong core. Strengthening these muscles helps improve balance and stability, reducing the likelihood of falls and fractures.
Flexibility is another important aspect of Pilates. By engaging in a range of stretching exercises, individuals with osteoporosis can improve joint mobility and muscle flexibility.
Increased flexibility can improve the range of motion, decrease stiffness, and enhance overall functional movement.
Pilates and Reformer Pilates have lots of strengthening positions and weight-bearing movements that can help strengthen the bones and aid bone density.
The three best Pilates exercises for osteoporosis coming soon
What Pilates exercises to avoid for osteoporosis
"Movements or exercise that involve sustained, repeated or end range forward flexion should be modified or avoided. Any exercise that causes the back to bend forwards excessively into a 'c'shape particularly with added load should be modified or avoided." (Royal Osteoporosis Society 2019)
There are certain positions that should be avoided if you have osteoporosis. These included bending forwards too far so your spine is in a C shape.
If you're thinking of starting Pilates for osteoporosis, then its best to attend a class that is Physio led, and will know what types of movements to avoid.
Reformer routine for Pilates
The following routine is an excellent combination of weight-bearing, strengthening and lengthening exercises, perfect for osteoporosis sufferers. Coming soon...
We have experience working with many clients who need specialist care such as osteopenia, osteoporosis and scoliosis.