Osteoporosis Fighter: 12 Minutes of Yoga on Most Days

Study shows bone-building benefits for regular practice

Osteoporosis Fighter: 12 Minutes of Yoga on Most Days

Your doctor has told you that you have bone loss or thinning. Is this a reason to stop exercising? Not at all.

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Weight-bearing exercise has been proven to help avoid these conditions, which are called osteoporosis and osteopenia. Weight-bearing exercise forces you to work against gravity. Some examples include weight training, walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, tennis, and dancing.

recent study suggests that yoga may be a good addition to the list of weight-bearing exercise that keep osteoporosis and osteopenia at bay.

Increased bone density

Yoga has established benefits — including better balance and coordination—that protect against falling, a major cause of osteoporosis-linked fractures, the study’s researchers said. But the researchers wanted to see whether a set of certain yoga poses also might increase bone density by imposing force on the spine and hips.

The researchers recruited 741 people who joined the study between 2005 and 2015. The participants submitted bone density scans of their hips and spines and other lab tests at the beginning of the study. They also received instructions for the 12 yoga poses, which included tree, triangle, warrior II, locust and bridge, and were asked to log their yoga activity online.

The 227 participants, 202 of whom were women, practiced the routine at least every other day for two years. The average age of the participants when joining was 68, and 83 percent had lower-than-normal bone density.

At the end of the study, the participants submitted new bone density scans — and the test showed significant increases in bone density in the spine.

Hip bone density increased, too, but not significantly. None of the participants reported bone fractures or other injuries caused by doing yoga.

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Building bone

Incorporating yoga into a regular exercise routine that also includes strength training can be beneficial for those who want to maintain and build bone, says Judi Bar, E-RYT 500, Cleveland Clinic yoga program manager. Many yoga poses done on a mat can be considered weight-bearing, Ms. Bar says.

“Every pose has a benefit toward bone health if the pose is activating muscles and/or has any part of the body touching the ground,” Ms. Bar says.

Practicing yoga also improves balance and coordination, which can help protect you from falling and incurring a bone fracture.

“We’re practicing good posture, mind-body connection and balance all together. Practicing to develop better balance is a really important part of a protocol now for  patients with osteoporosis. If we are able to develop better balance to be able to catch ourselves, we’re less likely to fall and possibly fracture our bones,” Ms. Bar says.

Ms. Bar noted that the study participants did 12 poses within 12 minutes, which might be a challenge for some yoga practitioners. Others may want to hold poses longer to build strength or work on alignment.

Both approaches are fine, she says, as long as they are appropriate for your personal fitness level and your medical conditions or physical limitations. Yoga is not a competition sport and should never cause pain, she says.

“What’s important to getting the desired results is the quality of how we practice the pose,” Ms. Bar says.

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Yoga for every body

If you’re new to yoga and think you might have difficulty lowering yourself to the ground, use caution and take your time, Ms. Bar says.

When you first attempt balancing poses, try steadying yourself with one arm by leaning on a wall or using a chair until you build up strength and experience, she says. Practice yoga with the attitude that you are learning and not competing with anyone.

For people with chronic conditions or painful joints, Ms. Bar recommends finding a yoga instructor who is experienced in modifying poses for people with medical issues.

“Not all the poses in this study are accessible to everyone, but they can be adapted or modified to build a yoga practice that is right for you,” she says.

If you have very low bone density, be sure to avoid forward-bending exercises and spine-twisting movements, which may put too much pressure on your back, Ms. Bar says.

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