Osteoporosis Osteoporosis Prevention

Exercise for Bone Health


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Summary & Participants

Exercise is an essential part of preventing osteoporosis, and there are certain exercises that are particularly effective in keeping bones healthy and decreasing the risk of fractures. Join rheumatologist Paula Rackoff as she discusses which exercises are most useful in an osteoporosis prevention plan.

Medically Reviewed On: July 21, 2009

Webcast Transcript


DAVID R. MARKS, MD: Hi, and welcome to our webcast. I'm Dr. David Marks. Most people know the key to preventing osteoporosis is getting enough calcium in your diet, but you may not know that certain kinds of exercise are also an essential part of keeping your bones healthy and also of decreasing your risk of fractures.

Here to tell us all about exercise for your bones is Dr. Paula Rackoff. She's Assistant Chief of Rheumatology at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. Welcome.

PAULA RACKOFF, MD: Thank you.

DAVID R. MARKS, MD: How important is exercise?

PAULA RACKOFF, MD: Increasing bone density is related to exercise, and there are certain kinds of exercises that really can increase your bone density, and we call those exercises "weight-bearing exercises" -- that's walking, power walking, jogging, tennis, field hockey, not that that many women play field hockey anymore.

DAVID R. MARKS, MD: And we're not recommending that 70-year-old women play field hockey.

PAULA RACKOFF, MD: Right.

DAVID R. MARKS, MD: These exercises, can they actually increase the amount of bone mass that a person has?

PAULA RACKOFF, MD: Yes, they can to a small percentage increase bone density. What they do even more than that, actually, is increase an individual's balance and agility, and what we really worry about with osteoporosis is fracture. In terms of hip bone density, it doesn't really matter how bad your bone density is in your hip as long as you don't fall and break your hip.

DAVID R. MARKS, MD: Now, there are a lot of exercises that people do that they think may be helpful, but they may be actually harmful because they may put them at risk for fractures and other problems.

PAULA RACKOFF, MD: Right.

DAVID R. MARKS, MD: Go through some of the typical exercises that you recommend for patients.

PAULA RACKOFF, MD: I recommend power walking.

DAVID R. MARKS, MD: What does that mean?

PAULA RACKOFF, MD: That means walking where you're increasing your heart rate enough so that you're perspiring. When someone's able to do that relatively easily, I'll actually ask them to put light weights on their wrists, around their lower spine, on their ankles. If someone's young and active, I would recommend that they start jogging -- not on a daily basis, but what we call "cross training" -- doing different exercises. And I would recommend light weightlifting with free weights. Then for my older patients I recommend balance training.

DAVID R. MARKS, MD: What does that mean?

PAULA RACKOFF, MD: There are certain exercises that a physical therapist can show an individual to increase your balance.

DAVID R. MARKS, MD: Can you give some examples?

PAULA RACKOFF, MD: There are deep knee bends. There's walking heel to toe, which some people have a difficult time doing.

DAVID R. MARKS, MD: Are these what we call resistance exercises?

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