The bones that make up your skeleton form the framework that carries you around! Yet, too many people take the health of their bones for granted until they reach late middle age and are sidelined by an unexpected fracture or a bone density scan that reveals osteopenia or osteoporosis. People with osteoporosis often experience no symptoms until confronted with their first bone fracture. When your bones are in a weakened state, a minor movement or even coughing can be enough to cause a bone to fracture.
The time to think about your bones is as early as possible. Once you reach your 30s, you’ve maxed our how much bone you’ll carry for the rest of your life, although nutrition and exercise can help you maintain the bone you have for a lifetime. There is also some evidence that people can modestly improve bone mass later in life through physical activity.
We know that not all exercise provides equivalent benefits for bone health. Some, like swimming and cycling, have little benefit at all. The best form of exercise is high-impact movement where both of your feet leave the ground simultaneously, Think running or jumping! High-intensity strength training also helps build and preserve bone mass. But what about yoga? It shares little in common with movements like running and jumping. Yoga poses are healthy for the brain and for muscle endurance and flexibility, but what about bone health?
Yoga for Healthy Bones–or Not?
Yoga isn’t high-impact exercise and when you do it, you work with your own bodyweight rather than weights. These factors suggest that yoga isn’t effective for building bone. Yet a study finds that yoga could reverse bone loss related to osteoporosis. For the study, 227 people with an average age of 68 performed a yoga routine using a DVD to guide them at home. They performed the sequence of 12 poses that required around 12 minutes of time every other day for 2 years. Before the study began, they underwent DEXA scans to look at the health of their bones. Once the study was over, they repeated the scans.
The results? Most of the participants in the study had worse than average bone density. Despite their less than ideal bones, scanning showed improvements in bone density in the spine along with modest improvements in bone density in the hips, although the latter change wasn’t significant. However, the improvement in bone density in the spine was. The participants also remained injury-free throughout the study.
Should you do yoga for bone health? Twelve minutes is a small investment for healthy bones, but there were some problems with the study. Some participants didn’t follow through on the routine and some didn’t get their initial bone scan. So, this study can’t conclusively say that yoga boosts bone density but suggests that we need further research to verify these findings.
‘Can Yoga Reduce the Risk of Fractures?
Increasing bone density isn’t the only way yoga might reduce the risk of bone fractures related to osteoporosis. Regular yoga practice can improve your sense of balance and the awareness of where your body lies in space. Great body awareness can help reduce the risk of falling and sustaining a fracture. The most serious bone break is a hip fracture, which carries a high risk of disability and mortality. A study carried out at Temple University’s Gait Study Center found that that nine weeks of yoga improved the subjects’ stride, balance, gait, and flexibility. Plus, they had other benefits like an improved mood and outlook on life.
Follow These Precautions if You Have Osteoporosis
If you already have bone loss, you must take certain precautions when you do yoga. Avoid doing poses that require spinal flexion since flexing your spine if have bone loss could bring about a spinal compression fracture. Also, avoid movements that force you to twist your spine. Start gently and gradually work up to a more rigorous yoga routine. When you first start, your sense of balance may not be optimal, so move slowly from pose to pose, and don’t be afraid to use a support for certain poses, like a bench, wall, or chair to stay balanced early. Get clearance from your physician to do yoga if you have osteoporosis.
Keep Your Bones Healthy!
We don’t know with certainty whether regular yoga sessions improve bone density. The question needs further research using larger groups of participants. However, it’s clear that all women and some men are at risk of osteoporosis and need strategies to preserve bone health. Yoga is a low-impact way to improve flexibility and balance and, possibly, keep skeletal bones healthy. But even if you work out regularly, you can still experience bone loss because of other factors. Certain medical conditions and medications increase the risk as does a strong family history, a sedentary lifestyle, small bones, low body weight, malnutrition, smoking, and overuse of alcohol. Know your risk factors and talk to your physician about the best time to measure your bone density. Don’t assume because you’re active that you won’t develop osteoporosis. Be proactive and get your bone density measured at the time your physician recommends.
The Bottom Line
Yoga is good natural medicine and it may be beneficial for your bones in more than one way. It helps with balance and it may improve bone density too. But don’t give up other forms of training. High-impact exercise, in moderation, helps preserve bone density, but don’t overdo it since excessive impact and pounding is hard on the joints. If high-impact exercise is too hard on your joints, strength training using resistance of at least 80% of one-rep max provides enough stimulus to promote new bone formation. However, yoga will help your body recover between harder, high-impact and strength-training workouts and if it boosts the health of your bones, so much the better!
· ScienceDaily.com. “People with osteoporosis should avoid spinal poses in yoga, study says”
· Harvard Health Publishing. “Yoga: Another way to prevent osteoporosis?”
· ScienceDaily. Com. “Yoga Poses Can Prevent Falls In Women Over 65, Study Suggests”