Exercise / Physical Activity
Why is exercise/physical activity important?
Physical activity at any time in your life is good for your heart,
muscle tone, flexibility and coordination. In children and young adults,
physical activity is necessary to build strong bones. After peak
bone mass is reached (usually by age 25), exercise plays an important
role in maintaining bone mass. In adulthood, physical activity can modestly increase bone mass, reduce bone loss, improve posture,
promote balance to prevent falls, and increase muscle mass to cushion
bones in the event of a fall.
What should I do before starting an exercise program?
To insure your safety, consult with your healthcare provider before
beginning an exercise program. This is especially important if you
have (or have a history of) a medical condition or if you have been
diagnosed with osteoporosis and/or have a history of fracture. If you
have osteoporosis and/or fracture, it would be beneficial to get a
prescription from your healthcare provider for a physical therapy
consultation before starting your exercise program. Older adults, people
with medical conditions, and those with physical disabilities can benefit
from supervised exercise. Taking these precautions will help make sure
that your exercise program follows the principles of safe movement.
What is the ideal exercise program to promote strong bones?
An ideal program combines weight-bearing, muscle strengthening, postural
training and balance exercises.
- Weight-bearing exercise is any physical activity in which your
body works against gravity. It simply means that your feet and
legs are supporting or carrying your weight. This type of exercise
builds bone mass in youth and maintains it in adulthood. Some examples
of weight-bearing exercises include walking, racquet sports, team
sports, dancing, and climbing stairs. Swimming and bicycling are
not weight-bearing exercises.
- Muscle strengthening exercises build muscle that helps support
your bones. Lifting weights, using resistance bands and exercising
on resistance machines are ways to strengthen muscle. It is very
important to avoid harmful movements when doing strengthening exercises.
- Postural training exercises promote correct posture and proper
body alignment. This may help to minimize stooped posture resulting
- Balance exercises may help to reduce your risk of falling. Tai
Chi is an example of a balance type of exercise.
What if I am unable to do all of these types of exercises?
Your exercise program needs to be tailored to your age and health
status. It is always important to follow the recommendations of your
healthcare provider and/or physical therapist. They will know the
best, safest exercise for you, taking all of your medical conditions
and/or physical limitations into consideration. Even if you are limited
in the type or amount of exercise you can do, any safe exercise is
better than inactivity.
What movements and positions should be avoided during exercises and
- Most fractures occur as a result of a fall so any exercise that
increases the risk of a fall should be avoided.
- Forward bending/flexing the spine should be avoided during all
movements and exercise. Flexing of the spine puts undue stress
on the vertebrae (bones) and could cause a fracture. This would include
movements like toe touches, curl up sit ups and reaching for the
floor with straight legs.
- Excessive rotation of the spine should be avoided. This is especially
important when in a standing or seated position when there is weight
through the spine.
- Excessive compression of the spine should be avoided. For example,
lifting heavy weights overhead, falling on the buttock or hitting
a hard wave when sitting in a boat.
American Physical Therapy Association: http://www.apta.org/Consumer
New York State Office for Aging: http://agingwell.state.ny.us/fitness/index.htm
National Osteoporosis Foundation: http://www.nof.org/prevention/exercise.htm