Osteoporosis Lifestyle

Pilates and Osteoporosis

Jessica Curnier is a Body Control Pilates qualified instructor in Guildford who’s passionate about training bodies to become stronger and giving you a well-rounded workout that will leave you feeling empowered. In this article she uses her experience to tell us about Osteoporosis and how Pilates can help overcome the problems incurred by sufferers.

What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is the gradual and silent loss of bone tissue (approximately 25-30%), resulting in bone fragility and an increased likelihood of fracture. It is classified as a silent skeletal disease as many are unaware they have it until they suffer a fracture. An estimated 3 million people in the UK suffer from osteoporosis, approximately 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50.
The vertebrae of the spine, the hip and wrist are the most likely sites of fracture in those suffering from osteoporosis. A spinal fracture can result in scoliosis, altered pelvic tilt, poor hip mobility, knee problems, increased kyphosis (hunchback), respiratory impairment, incontinence and chronic pain.

The main risk factors for osteoporosis include:
Menopause (12 month cessation of menstrual period)
Early menopause (before 45)
Women who have undergone a hysterectomy, particularly before 45
Female athletes or dancers with or who have experienced amenorrhea (loss of menstruation)
Women with or who have experienced eating disorders
Low calcium intake
High caffeine intake
Sedentary lifestyle
Heavy drinking
Low body weight and BMI (body mass index)
Small thin frame
For men, low testosterone levels
High protein diets

Osteoporosis 2

So what type of exercise is effective for stimulating bone growth?
Bone will only respond when it is placed under stress against the force of gravity. High impact, weight bearing exercise is therefore very effective in improving bone mineral density, particularly in the spine and hip. Examples of weight bearing exercise include walking, jogging, dancing, tennis, badminton, squash and aerobics. Strength training has also been shown to lower the risk of fractures for postmenopausal women if performed twice a week. This is because muscle is attached to bone by tendons. As the muscle contracts, they tug at the bones, stimulating bone growth. The stronger the muscles, the more powerful the stimulation.

Bone only responds to intensity of exercise, not duration. Therefore, after about 10 minutes of repetitive exercise, bone production stops meaning that variation as in circuit training is the key to continued bone growth.

So how can Pilates help?
Since Pilates is a strength training programme, it can stimulate bone growth. By working on balance and postural stability, it can reduce the number of osteoporotic fractures caused by falls. Pilates also offers the benefit of teaching the neutral alignment of joints in the body, lengthening the spine and consequently decreasing potentially painful compression. Improving pelvic floor fast and slow twitch fibres may also be advantageous in addressing osteoporosis related incontinence, whilst improving relaxation skills can help with pain management if present.

Pilates exercises are very much site specific, allowing focus to be placed on strengthening the muscles around vulnerable bones. Many exercises in Pilates are also weight bearing, using either the weight of the body or the force of muscular contraction to place pressure on the bone and stimulate bone growth. Bones can be continually challenged in Pilates by either using hand, wrist or leg weights, stretch bands, the Reformer and its springs (bigger Pilates equipment) or simply the weight of the body itself. Pilates is not repetitive either so changing the site of target every 10 minutes serves to promote optimal bone growth within an hour workout session!

So if you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis or you have 3 or more of the risk factors associated with it, then why not investigate the possibility of incorporating Pilates into your exercise regime to stimulate bone growth? Please ensure, however, that your Pilates instructor is qualified to teach those with osteoporosis as many of the more classical Pilates exercises require modification to ensure safe practice for the individual suffering from osteoporosis.

Jessica Curnier

Images sourced from: http://tinyurl.com/mh559yn and http://tinyurl.com/nogt5b6