Studies suggest that approximately one in two women and up to one in four men age 50 and older will break a bone due to osteoporosis, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. With over 50 million Americans suffering from low bone mass it is no wonder treating osteoporosis successfully has been at the forefront of the medical community over the last 5 years. One of the most common questions I get from new clients is “Does Pilates help with Osteoporosis?” There are quite a few Pilates exercises that specifically help with Osteoporosis!
If you have been diagnosed with low bone density or know someone who has you’ve probably heard that weight-bearing exercises — such as walking — can help reduce the risk of a broken bone when you have osteoporosis. But you shouldn’t overlook Pilates as a potential bone-stimulating regimen for those needing to boost their bone density.
What Type of Pilates is Best?
Not just any Pilates routine will do. In fact, the general recommendation is to avoid Pilates Mat classes as they may put too much stress on the spine. Many basic Pilates exercises within a mat class are not safe for people with osteoporosis. Here’s what you need to know before you test out your favorite local Pilates haven:
How Pilates Can Help Someone With Osteoporosis
There are two types of exercises that are important for building and maintaining bone density: weight-bearing (high or low impact) and muscle-strengthening exercises (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [HHS] 2004 2004). However, an unsung hero/third type of exercise that is VITAL in the osteopenic/osteoporotic population is balance! (Falls are the #1 cause of fractures in the osteoporotic population). Here are three ways Pilates specifically helps people with osteoporosis:
- Increasing bone density when body parts move against the resistance of gravity or of the reformer (a piece of Pilates equipment)
- Increasing strength and muscle mass when performing resistance exercises on the reformer which in turn help to support the bones
- Improving balance, which can help prevent falls that might result in a bone fracture
Questions to Ask a Pilates Instructor if You Have Osteoporosis
We recommend anyone with osteoporosis and especially those new to Pilates begin with a few private sessions to get acclimated to the equipment and learn the appropriate modifications necessary to keep them safe in a group setting (link to the benefits of private sessions from previous PITG blog)
- Do you have experience working with clients with osteoporosis?
- Can you teach me the modifications necessary for me to safely enter group classes?
Pilates can provide a safe and effective workout for those diagnosed with osteoporosis. A qualified and certified Pilates instructor will be able to guide you through a workout that you will not only love but that will help you to step out into the world a stronger more confident person.