A Lesson about Working Out and Osteoporosis

Four years ago I was diagnosed with the beginning stages of Osteoporosis. It meant a change in diet, some medication, and work out plan with strength training.  The quick re-cap is I had not entered a gym at that point, for my own health, until I was sixty and again, I do not recommend that for anyone.  Since I began, I have had one bone scan which showed improvement and I am scheduled for another in a couple of weeks.  I know strength training has helped me in many, many ways.
I work out with a group of women who honestly have played a huge factor in me even showing up consistently…let’s face it, it is very easy to talk myself out of going that early and for that much work.  I often leave all my energy for the day on the gym floor.  But, as my legs have strengthed, so has my resolve to be there. One of those ladies and I have been friends for over 20 years, and she also has Osteoporosis.  We always do the partner workouts together.  Lately, both of us have been unhappy with our weight, so we have been “pushing” ourselves harder.  We did not take into account anything else…only that we wanted to work harder to achieve our goals.  That was a mistake.

We previously had power walked our warm up.  But in the last couple of weeks we began to jog our warm up.  During that time yesterday, her leg gave out and she fell to the basketball court and fractured her hip. It broke my heart.

Here is my point with the story…it is so important, no matter your age, to MOVE and MOVE often.  But, do not pressure yourself to do more than your body is ready for.  Listen to your body and your doctor.  We are bombarded with messages to push harder and exercise more.  I am not saying those messages are bad….but I am saying that a workout is INDIVIDUAL, and needs to be a plan tailored just for you.  Do not allow comparisons with other people to push you into a routine that might not be the best.  If you have Osteoporosis, then you need to take that seriously.  I have not been taking it seriously and this was a major wakeup call to me.

Now, I am not gving all of us a permission slip to not work out.  Strength training for me has been paying off. I even heard recently there is a new study linking strong legs to the brain and those with strong legs may have less of a chance of developing dementia. So, this was a wake up call to listen to my body…my 64 year old body with osteoporosis and not push quite as hard as I was trying to do.  Baby steps are good steps.  I also learned into the second year that I had to add some stretch exercises with it in order to stay injury free…so yoga or stretch classes can be your friend.  Good health over 50 is a continual process and involves so many parts…don’t get too comfortable and begin to ignore some of those parts.

My friend had surgery and I know will comback strong.  She is in her late fifties and is surrounded by friends and family who will help her comeback.  But, running will not be in the picture for either of us.

 DESPITE YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES, KEEP SMILING!

Here is some equipment I use at home:

TRX WEIGHTED BALLS

CAP COATED DUMBELLS

EXERCISE MATT

Disclaimer:  I am not a professional strength trainer.  I do work with one at a gym, but what I share here is from experience.  It is always best to consult your doctor and a strength trainer before beginning an exercise program.

32 Comments

  1. What a fabulous post! Seriously, this is so important. It is so easy to think that if we just do more and push harder, we will get to our goals faster. As you point out, this is not always the case. Movement is so very important and as women we need to take it seriously. I think it’s important to find an activity that you truly enjoy, then it is less like work. I walk most days at work with a friend at lunch time, we typically walk 3 1/2 miles on our lunch hour (we need to allow time to get back to our desks to change!) The fresh air and sunshine does wonders during stressful workdays. At home I use the Walk at Home DVDs with Leslie Sansone and I LOVE them. She has some that incorporate strength training that are very good. We just need to find something we can do, tailor it to our body and our requirements (such as osteoporosis) and keep going. My mom has spent the past I can’t tell you how many years sitting, her legs don’t work much at all and she definitely has dementia. That fact you pointed out, the link to strong legs and dementia, is enough to keep me going forever! Thank you for this important post! Wishing a speedy recovery for your friend! The fact that she was exercising is no doubt going to factor in to that recovery in a positive way!

  2. Thank you, Karen. I do think her exercise is going to help the recovery and I pray her hope and spirit stays strong. Thanks for sharing all you are doing…we need to encourage one another!

    1. Don’t wait, Kim. Begin something soon. I so regret waiting so long. It is hard in the beginning, but soon you will be glad you did.

  3. Thanks for posting this. It is possible that your friend’s hip broke before the fall and that the fall itself did not fracture her hip. I hope she heals fast and that she is able to exercise again with you. I have osteopenia and have been taking medication for the last two years. I am walking 3 miles a day four to five times a week with a friend. I have tried various exercise cd’s but have not found one gentle enough for me. I seem to overdo the exercises and then injure myself. So I am doing my best to keep walking. I do have one CD for bone strength and am able to do some of those exercises. Thanks for sharing your story.

    1. Thanks Sue! I really appreciate all this comments…it is helping me understand that. I need to be more careful.

  4. After reading your post this morning I went to the National Osteoporosis Foundation site>patient support>resources>FAQs. The very first question was about jogging and said exactly what you said: it is unsafe.
    Somewhere else I read that weight training may only increase your bone density 1% after one year, but after 10 years you could have an increase of 10%. I’m in this for the long haul and am fortunate I love going to the gym. I am highly motivated by the other older people there fighting the good fight. Thank you for your important contribution to this issue.

  5. Pam: First of all, I had wondered what happened to your blog! I guess when you redid it, I somehow slipped off the email list: anyway, the new, revised blog is wonderful! Much better and more contemporary and professional: I love it!
    And, as to exercise. Oh yes indeed. I have been a gym rat for years, having hated (with a capital H) all exercise in school and years afterward! But I am approaching 70 and my bone scans only get better every three years. Yes, I have actually gained bone mass. I’ve also taken calcium for almost 20 years. But it is so, so important not to go too far or too fast, especially as we age. Do what feels good and right for you. Staying active has really become a goal for so many “seniors” hasn’t it?

    1. So glad you found me again,Libby. Make sure you sign up for email through this site in the sidebar! It is so encouraging to know that you continue to strengthen your bones! Thanks for sharing!

  6. So sorry to hear about your friend, Pam. It is a lesson for all of us to stay active and take care of our health. Accidents do happen, and we need to be in the best shape we can be to prepare for them.

  7. Great post, Pam! I think Dick Van Dyke (who just turned 91) said it best with his latest book, “Keep Moving.” I am firm believer in that. When I don’t get my regular walking in, I sure notice the difference. I had major surgery earlier this year and I attribute my quick healing to the fact that I keep active with my walking. Of course, there’s plenty of room for improvement, but I know I need to keep at it. I wish your friend a speedy recovery! Good reminder on not overdoing it!

  8. So sorry about your friends…hope she heals quickly and is feeling better. THANK YOU for your post – it is SO needed. I was diagnosed with pre-osteo problems and had an infusion last year. My mother was so debilitated by osteoporosis so I know what it can do. After retiring in January, my dear husband and I ( 64 and 62 ) were great at walking, lifting weights some days, and walking at home with those great Leslie Sansone workouts. Then a unit at a wonderful retirement village we loved suddenly came up – we jumped on it. Quickly selling our home, going through 40 years of accumulated stuff, moving, adjusting to our new place. This community is IDEAL for moving your body – 3 pools, various gyms, walking paths, etc. – and in our building there is an exercise room with treadmills, weights, and other equipment right next door. When we saw this on the plans we said NO EXCUSES. Hah! We have used it once and the only other times we enter is when we take friends on a tour to show them the building. SO, you have inspired me – and my husband – to start NOW. We had a seminar here last month on Life Lived Forward and the connection between movement and dementia is so clear…Thank you for the reminder to do all we can to have long, healthy, and happy lives!!!

    1. Thank you for sharing so much. I know it will help others who have similar circumstances. Having encouragement makes a big difference.

  9. Hi again. I thought I would add one more comment. I have a weighted vest that I wear when I clean house. It is too hot or awkward to wear on a walk or to the gym, but hopefully helps my bones while doing daily house chores.
    And a word on that…during my 41 year career I had help cleaning the house. Once I retired I decided to do it myself and consider it a part of my exercise. I did have to google techniques and products to get me started. 🙂

    1. Well…I don’t clean my house…but perhaps I should! I will not let anyone help me with groceries or to pick up “reasonable” weighted boxes. I also park way far away from where I need to be. You are right…little things make a difference. I will probably be cleaning again at some point!

  10. You are singing my song, Pam. I started Crossfit at 52. At 59, my body has changed and I just can’t do some of the things I used to do. And yoga is every day for me. If I don’t stretch enough, it inhibits everything else I do. Thank goodness I have a great coach who tailors my workouts for me. It’s hard not to get caught up in the losing weight/exercise harder cycle. But we have this one body and we have to tread carefully!

    1. Yes we do, Cathy! I am so impressed you do Crossfit…you go girl. And it is good that you are listening to your body.

  11. Fabulous, inspirational post. I’ve neglected my walking routine for a few months now, and it’s time to get back on track. I do work out with a trainer once a week and she has advised me to sit on the floor and then get back up at least once a day, as that’s a skill that can be lost. It might sound wierd, but I do it. I’m 66, and like everyone else who has commented, I want to retain mobility for many more years. Thank you for writing such a real, genuine blog. It truly resonates with those of us who are entering our wisdom years!

  12. GREAT post Pam! I’m so sorry to read about your friend, but glad she let you share – so many of us have learned from her experience. Sending best wishes her way for speedy healing.
    I started working with a trainer 1 day before I turned 59 and it has made a world of difference in my life. I am stronger, my balance is better (I was losing my balance … at 59 … good grief!) and although I haven’t lost weight, I have so many invisible health benefits that I can’t imagine NOT working out for the rest of my life! For me, even though costly, a trainer is the way to go … I need that external motivation!

    I am now at the point where I want to improve my eating habits to lose weight, eat higher nutrition, and build good habits as I age. To that end, I hope you’ll continue to post about your journey to health. I learn so much from you, and all those who reply to your posts. (Can’t wait to read Dick Van Dyke’s book, am looking into one of those weight vests, and am going to make myself a fancy “MOVE” sign!!)
    Thanks for all you do, Pam! I’m having a blast re-inventing myself in my 60’s, and have you to thank for inspiring me! It’s all a journey …

  13. Thanks everyone! What a wakeup call for me! At 58 I work harder and longer than ever and exercise is next to non existent. That changes now!

    1. We have to find ways to work it in, Janet. I understand about working longer and harder…that is what I am doing…so I have to remind myself to move. I know a fitbit does that, so I am considering getting one for that reason and I finally understand the importance of tracking my steps. I am so glad this post helped many of us…including ME! Thanks for commenting.

    2. HI Janet…I feel like I am working harder and longer than ever before. We need to make sure we take care of ourselves. I am finally thinking of getting a fitbit which is suppose to keep me moving. I have resisted it for a long time, but I think I am going to give in. Thanks for your comment.

  14. Thank you for the timely reminder, Pam! I’m pushing myself a little bit harder with the weight lifting this winter as I’m preparing for longer kayaking adventures next summer, but I do need to be wise and not overdo it. I’m also planning to get back on the treadmill as I’ve been very lazy in the walking department in recent months, but again, I need to follow your advice and not try to do more than my body is ready for.

    I wish your friend a full and speedy recovery!

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