The National Osteoporosis Society says that more than 3 million people in the UK are estimated to have Osteoporosis and that every minute there is an Osteoporosis related bone fracture. (ref:https://nos.org.uk/ )
Women over 50 are most at risk to develop Osteoporosis. It is estimated that 50% of women over 50 will develop Osteoporosis. Men and younger people can develop it too, and statistics show cases of Osteoporosis are generally dramatically increasing.
What is Osteoporosis and what are its Risks?
Osteoporosis is a degeneration of bone density. When our bones are healthy they are full of minerals that keep them super strong, as well as a little bit flexible so they can absorb the shock and impact of our daily activities. The more we stomp and jump when we are kids the better in fact, as bone density increases based on the demand.
When we develop Osteoporosis the bone becomes brittle and literally crumbles. We have different kinds of bone in our body. Some is naturally very dense, other look a bit like a sponge or honeycomb structure, with little holes. When we have Osteoporosis these areas are particularly at risk of crumbling. We have bone like this at the top of our thigh bone for example, which means that those suffering from Osteoporosis are at risk of hip fractures. We also have sponge bone in the front bit of our vertebra in the spine. This can become a huge problem.
We are designed to bend forward and turn our body side to side. It comes much easier to us bio-mechanically than bending backwards for example. However when we have Osteoporosis all the forward bending we do as we go through life, wears away at the front of our vertebral bodies, so they begin to look like wedges, as supposed to disks.Therefore we tend to see that those suffering from Osteoporosis over time, become very hunched in their posture. This wearing away of the front of the bone is caused by micro fractures that the person will not feel as they happen. This is a gradual process and while a fracture from impact can heal, these micro fractures are irreversible and will get worse, unless we dramatically change how we move.
What Do You Need To Be Aware Of?
If you have been diagnosed with Osteoporosis, it is something you will have to manage for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, if you have been diagnosed with Osteoporosis certain high impact sports will become a nono for you. Your bones are now more brittle and vulnerable and you need to avoid impact that causes risks of fractures. This includes activities that carry a risk of falling, as falling can now cause bone fractures more easily. Having said that, of course you want to stay fit and physically able. Walking is a great physical activity, that provides gentle impact, to continue stimulating bone density without increasing risks of fractures. Cycling or rowing would be a great alternative for running in order to maintain your cardiovascular health. Body weight exercise like Pilates and Yoga are great to maintain strength and flexibility and further stimulate bone density safely.
However if you choose to take up Pilates or Yoga it is very important that you work with a teacher who understands the contraindications and risks that come with Osteoporosis and helps you stay save. There are certain exercises and movements even in Pilates and Yoga, that will add to spinal degeneration if you suffer from Osteoporosis.
What you must avoid:
This is for the same reason as above.
How Specialised Pilates Can Help You.
Pilates is one of the best methods to help you keep your spine as healthy as possible, while maintaining your over all fitness. Specific Pilates exercises for Osteoporosis can actively help you avoid the collapse of your spine.
However it is very important to work with a practitioner who is experienced in working with Osteoporosis. As mentioned above, it is important to minimise or even avoid forward and sideways flexing of the spine as well as rotational movements under load. The Pilates and also Yoga repertoire is full of such movements, therefore you could cause yourself great damage if you simply join a Pilates or Yoga class at the gym where you do the same exercises as everyone else in the class.
If you can find a practitioner who works with you on a 1-1 basis, or looks after you within a small class, he or she will be able to show you how you can adapt a forward flexion exercise into an exercise that is save for you to do. So there is no need to feel like you can not do certain movements. You will just do them a bit differently.
Pilates and Yoga can further help you specifically counter the wearing down of your vertebral bodies by strengthening your back and opening your chest. In 1-1 sessions your teacher can give you a range of specific exercises to practice regularly at home, that give you an overall, more upright posture. This will take pressure off the front of your vertebrae, meaning you will be able to preserve a very vulnerable area of your spine for longer, making a huge difference to the quality of your life in the long term.
If you know you have Osteoporosis or its pre-stage, Osteopenia, starting with specific Pilates for your condition, with an experienced practitioner will give you a great sense of power and help you keep you spine healthy, minimising pain, risk of fractures and deterioration of lung capacity.
If you have Osteoporosis or Osteopenia, and you would like some help with how to keep your spine as healthy as possible contact Kristin at firstname.lastname@example.org.