A blog by runners. For runners.

Running and osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is bone disease that occurs when you lose too much bone or when your body doesn’t make enough bone. The condition leads to thin and weakened bones, and increases the risk for fractures.

Osteoporosis weakens the bones so much that they break easily. Fractures can happen as the result of falls or from something seemingly harmless, like bumping into furniture or a door. Bone breaks from osteoporosis are most likely to happen in the spine, hip, or wrist. This can lead to further complications and disability, especially if you’re older.

Risk factors for osteoporosis include being a woman, having a smaller body frame, and increased age – your risk for the condition goes up as you get older. Studies estimate as many as one in two women and one in four men will suffer a bone break after age 50 due to osteoporosis.

Running and osteoporosis: is it safe?
Exercise is typically recommended for people with osteoporosis. However, running usually isn’t.

People with osteoporosis have bone loss, and running is a high-impact, weight-bearing activity that puts a lot of added stress on the spine and other bones in your body. This makes those bones more susceptible to breaks. Experts usually suggest people with osteoporosis stick with lower impact forms of exercise such as brisk walking or hiking.

However, only your doctor can tell you if it’s OK for you to start or continue a running program. Your doctor knows your exact bone mineral density and your personal health history, so he or she can decide if running is safe for you.

Preventing osteoporosis
Running may not be advised for many people with osteoporosis, however, running may help prevent the condition in those at risk. Running reduces the risk of osteoporosis:

  • Keeping weight in check. Obese adults have a four to five times higher risk of developing osteoporosis when compared to people who are at a healthier weight.
  • Strengthening the bones. Weight-bearing exercises like running build the bones in the legs, hips, and lower spine, and help them stay strong.

If your goal is to prevent osteoporosis, doing resistance training exercises in addition to your runs is a must. This will help to strengthen the bones in your upper body. Lift weights, do body weight exercises such as push-ups, or take a yoga or Pilates class. Practicing yoga or Pilates comes with added benefits because these exercises improve your balance which will lower your risk of falls.

Eating foods high in calcium and vitamin D, and possibly taking supplements, may also lower your risk for osteoporosis.

Written by Jen Matz

NOTE: This article is not a substitute for medical advice. Always contact your physician prior to starting or continuing any exercise program.