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HealthInfo Canterbury

Self-care for osteoporosis

Older couple walking dogs at the beachAn important part of taking care of yourself when you have osteoporosis is to make lifestyle changes. Your bones change throughout your life with old bone being replaced by new. By eating well and being physically active, you can ensure the new bone has increased bone density, which will reduce your risk of bone fracture.

To help decide which treatment is suitable, you or your doctor can use the Fracture risk assessment calculation tool (FRAX). This shows your risk of having a fracture because of osteoporosis in the next ten years. The FRAX score uses your risk factors for osteoporosis and the result of a bone density scan (DXA) if you've had one.

Physical activity for osteoporosis

If you've already been diagnosed with osteoporosis, it's important to include physical activity in your daily living. Apart from strengthening your bones, exercise may relieve the pain, make everyday tasks easier and help to maintain or improve your posture.

The three type of activities most often recommended for people with osteoporosis are strength training exercises, weight‑bearing aerobic exercises and flexibility exercises. You will need to check with your health provider which exercises are suitable for you. The main thing is to find an activity that you enjoy and works for you given the progress of your medical condition.

Strength training

This includes using free weights, weight machines, resistance bands or water exercises to strengthen muscles and bones in your arms and upper spine. Strength training can also work directly on your bones to slow mineral loss.

Weight‑bearing aerobic activities

These involve doing aerobic exercise while you're on your feet, with your bones supporting your weight. For example, you could be walking, dancing, doing low‑impact aerobics or gardening. These types of exercises work directly on the bones in your legs, hips and lower spine to slow mineral loss.

Flexibility exercises

These can help increase your joints' mobility. This is a key part of overall fitness. Being able to bend, extend and rotate your joints helps you prevent muscle injury. Increased flexibility can also help improve your posture.

Falls prevention

A fall at any age can be dangerous but falls become more common and more likely to cause injury after the age of 55. If you have osteoporosis, you're more likely to break a bone if you fall. You might also need a long time to recover.

Learning how to prevent falls can help you to avoid broken bones and the problems they can cause. For more information, see Falls.

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Content shared between HealthInfo Canterbury, KidsHealth and Health Navigator NZ as part of a National Health Content Hub collaborative. Endorsed by Fracture Liaison Service, Canterbury DHB. Page created May 2020.

Page reference: 46649

Review key: HIOSP-24517