Osteopenia is a condition in which bone mineral density is lower than normal. It is important to keep this level from dropping further, so that you don’t end up with osteoporosis. Osteoporosis occurs when your bone density becomes very low. Exercise can be helpful in keeping your bones strong and preventing osteopenia from advancing. If your physician feels you are healthy enough for a regular exercise program, remember that it can have significant benefits for your overall health -- not just your bones.
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Lifting light weights can be helpful for osteopenia, but you can also use your own body’s weight as resistance during exercise. You can achieve this by using exercise bands, or by simply walking or hiking. Using arm weights when walking or hiking up an incline forces you to put more effort into the exercise and will benefit your bone density. Check with a healthcare professional about proper shoes to support you during long walks.
Keeping your bones moving with high-intensity exercise can be one of the best things for osteopenia. Take an aerobics class at your local gym, or participate in aerobic activities such as swimming or dancing. Exercise for osteopenia can be as much about having fun as having a scheduled workout, so if you prefer to take dancing lessons instead of an indoor cycling class, that can work well, too.
Posture and balance are important during exercise. Try adding pilates or stability ball workouts to weight-bearing and high-intensity exercise. These types of exercises can help you achieve better posture by improving your coordination and making your core and legs stronger. Start off slow and get help from an instructor, to make sure you don’t injury yourself.
Exercise is not going to magically improve your osteopenia overnight. An article in the “American Family Physician” points out that it will take more than a year to see any results of exercise on osteopenia. Keep in mind that the longer you keep up an exercise program, the better the effect will be on your bone strength. It may take years before you see a positive change in your bone density, and sometimes exercise alone is not enough. Your doctor may also recommend medication.
While exercise is, in general, good for promoting bone strength when you have osteopenia, be careful not to overdo it. Too much exercise is not a good thing for anyone. Consult with your doctor before starting an exercise regimen to determine the proper amount and intensity of exercise. If you are still unsure, consider getting a personal trainer and provide him with your doctor’s instructions to develop am exercise plan that will be best for your osteopenia.