What is Osteoporosis?
It’s a condition where bone strength is weakened, making bones more fragile and brittle. This results in a higher risk of fractures and those in the hip, spine and wrist are the most common. Osteopenia is when your bones are weaker than normal as well but not likely to break as easily as someone with Osteoporosis.
Throughout life our bodies are continually replacing old bone tissue. It’s removed in a process called resorption with new tissue replacing it. The hormone Oestrogen regulates the resorption of bone tissues, so more tissue isn’t removed than that being created. This process keeps our bones healthy and in good shape, however at around 50 our bodies don’t produce as much Oestrogen. There can then become an imbalance resulting in more loss of bone tissue than creation which leads to conditions such as Osteoporosis and Osteopenia.
Why is Pilates so beneficial?
Pilates is a great way to strengthen muscles and improve balance and these are two especially important areas in which to concentrate if we are to strengthen and maintain strong, healthy bones.
If done correctly, Pilates can help people with Osteoporosis and Osteopenia as it:
- Increases bone density by moving limbs against the forces of gravity.
- Increases strength and muscle mass which in turn supports the bones.
- Improves balance which helps to prevent falls and fractures.
- Improves posture and range of movement. This helps to keep bones in alignment and reduces the stress on joints.
How do I choose the right Pilates class?
As a low impact activity, Pilates is generally very safe for us as we get older and a great way to reduce the risk of Osteoporosis. However, if you do have either Osteoporosis or Osteopenia, it is vital that you are cautious as to which exercises will treat your condition and those that could make it worse.
Due to it’s rise in popularity and many benefits there are so many Pilates classes out there to choose from. If you do have Osteoporosis or Osteopenia a class tailored to your condition would be perfect or one in which you are confident your instructor can modify, adapt and offer advice as to which exercises to avoid.
A good Pilates instructor with training in Osteoporosis will have no problem in welcoming you to their class. To give you confidence that it is the right one you could ask the instructor the following questions. This will help you to identify the exercises that are safe and unsafe for you.
- Can you help me with the Pilates exercises that are safe and unsafe for people with Osteoporosis?
- Will the class include exercises that are unsafe?
- Will exercises aimed at balance and fall prevention be included.
I would also highly recommend that before starting a course of Pilates that you have a 1-1 session with your instructor so that your movement patterns can be assessed, modifications set, and recommendations given as to the best exercises and practice for you.
Fractures of the vertebrae are among the most serious and often more difficult to recover from and therefore it is important to avoid doing damage to the spine. It is recommended that anyone with Osteoporosis or Osteopenia avoid spinal twists, spinal flexion and forward bending and doing them whilst weight bearing discouraged all together.
To avoid injury, it is best to practice movement that focuses on extension and hinging from the hip with a flat back. Muscles of the back, shoulders, legs, and hips need to be strengthened.
To help manage, treat, and reduce the risk of Osteoporosis and Osteopenia, regular weight bearing, and resistance exercise is recommended. The main thing is to MOVE MORE, as inactivity results in an increased loss of bone mass.
Love your bones and protect their future by practicing Pilates!
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