But speaking with you and hearing your concerns pushed me to do some research on alternative exercises that I can recommend to everyone. I know how important exercise is for your bones and health, and I’m passionate about providing everyone with a solution.
Hydrotherapy and Water Exercise for OsteoporosisBefore recommending this to you for bone building, I wanted to investigate if water exercises or hydrotherapy is beneficial for bone health. And also compare the benefits to regular exercises on land. Usually, weight-bearing exercise is recommended for increasing bone density. In weight-bearing exercises, you are supporting your own body weight through your feet and legs against gravity. So that includes jogging, running, walking, and jumping for example. They increase bone density by having the muscle pull on the bone through impact on the ground and from carrying your body weight. The National Osteoporosis Society mentions that swimming is not weight-bearing. And that it does not affect bone density.³ That’s because there’s less gravity in an aquatic environment.
So What is Aquatic Exercise and Can It Help Your Bones?Aquatic exercise is “vertical exercise in the water with the participant submerged to chest or shoulder depth”.⁴ I’ve included some examples at the end of this post for you to try. But for now let’s look at the benefits! The Benefits of Aquatic Exercise:
- Decreased stress on weight-bearing joints due to the buoyancy of the water
- Increased mobility due to diminished gravitational pull
- The ability to use varying levels of resistance for strengthening
- Increased sensory stimulation in brain.⁴
Joining an aquatic exercise class for seniors can be terrific fun! Watch this short video from the ABC News channel featuring Dr Jane Katz:Do you have difficulty doing regular weight-bearing exercises or just want to try something new? If you do, I have a few great examples of water exercises for you to try.
Water ExercisesGet a feel for the water by slowly moving through it. Feel the warmth, the resistance, and get a sense of your buoyancy. Water spas or jacuzzis provide extra warmth and a soothing massage (but maybe not the super hot ones). Be careful getting into the pool as it may be slippery and don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. Once you’re in, stand with the water up to your chest. If this makes you feel short of breath, move to shallower water. Remember do not push exercises to the extent that they are painful. Also, make sure that your movements are comfortable. If a movement is painful, not only could you injure yourself, but you’ll be less likely to want to do it again.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and rest your arms on the surface of the water. Then gently turn your body to the right, swinging your left arm in front of you and your right arm behind you. Keep your elbows straight and in the water throughout. Repeat in the other direction.
- Stand holding on to the side of the pool. Bend one hip and knee up in front of you, standing tall and keeping your back straight. Then stretch your leg out behind you, keeping your knee straight. Repeat with the other leg.
- Try taking long strides forwards through the water. Once you’ve got that down, switch it up by walking sideways.
- Note: If you want to try hydrotherapy, make sure your therapist is an accredited physical therapist in your country.
- Arnold, C. M., Busch, A. J., Schachter, C. L., Harrison, E. L., & Olszynski, W. P. (2008). A Randomized Clinical Trial of Aquatic versus Land Exercise to Improve Balance, Function, and Quality of Life in Older Women with Osteoporosis. Physiotherapy Canada, 60(4), 296–306. http://doi.org/10.3138/physio.60.4.296
- Brown, J. P., Josse, R. G., & The Scientific Advisory Council of the Osteoporosis Society of Canada. (2002). 2002 clinical practice guidelines for the diagnosis and management of osteoporosis in Canada. CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal, 167(10), s1–s34.
- [NOF] National Osteoporosis Foundation 2008. Clinicians guide to prevention and treatment of osteoporosis [online].
- Sova R. Aquatics: the complete reference guide for aquatic fitness professionals. Boston: Jones & Bartlett; 1992
- Rostein A, Harush M, Vaisman N. (2008) The effect of a water exercise program on bone density of postmenopausal women. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. 48(3):352-9.