Osteoporosis: How can you prevent falls and fractures?

When it comes to protecting your bones, doing the right combination of exercises can make all the difference, says a Waterloo kinesiology professor who helped draft new recommendations for people with osteoporosis.

“We propose a shift away from aerobic-only exercise regimes to those that emphasize strength training and balance training in addition to aerobic training, to achieve the greatest health benefits,” says Lora Giangregorio.

Lora Giangregorio

Osteoporosis Canada recently launched Too Fit to Fracture, a set of exercise recommendations aimed at managing the progression and symptoms of osteoporosis. The guidelines , developed by Giangregorio and a team of international experts, are the first to outline specific combinations of exercises to help reduce falls and hip fractures among older adults.

Osteoporosis can affect mental health

“Osteoporosis affects more than a person’s bones- it can affect their confidence, mental health and overall well-being,” said Giangregorio. “These recommendations will guide health care providers in advising their patients on safe and effective physical activity.”

Helen Johnson, chair of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association Senior’s Health Division, says, “Many Canadians with osteoporosis avoid exercise because they are afraid of falling. Knowing that programs have been designed with these guidelines in mind will also help individuals remove barriers to exercise."

Each year falls account for over 63 percent of hip fractures and 45 percent of spine fractures in older adults. To minimize the likelihood of falls, the new recommendations focus on a multi-component approach to exercise, combining aerobic physical activity with balance and strength training.

There is strong evidence that performing challenging balance exercises for just twenty minutes a day can substantially reduce the likelihood of falls.

The newly published recommendations are the first of two reports from the Too Fit to Fracture research initiative. The second report – set to be published later this year—will also include expert consensus on answers to questions frequently asked by patients on how to move safely during every day activities and leisure activities like yoga or golf.  The recommendations can all be tailored to an individual’s specific condition or comfort level.