Walking Is The Best Exercise For Osteoporosis?

I’m 60 years old and was recently diagnosed with osteoporosis. I’ve never exercised regularly, but I’ve heard that walking is the best exercise for someone like me. Is that true?

Because you are still able to walk and have not exercised regularly, walking is the best form of exercise for you to start with. In 2001, as part of his report on obesity, the United States Surgeon General urged that all Americans adopt the habit of taking 10,000 or more steps every day.

This number was based on the need to get at least 30 minutes of exercise over and above your normal daily activities. The researchers came up with 10,000 steps as a reasonable goal to get America moving. And walking is free! So, to get started with a walking program that will benefit your bones, your heart, your weight, and your overall health, try the following:

Consult your clinician to make sure that a new walking program is appropriate for you and that you don’t have any limitations for medical reasons.

Make sure that you are doing other things to pre-vent further bone loss, like cutting down on alcohol and stopping cigarette smoking. If you don’t get enough calcium and vitamin D, even vigorous exercise and walking will not help your bones.

Find a friend who will partner with you. Walking with a friend can be good for both of you. And if you make a commitment to walk together, you are more likely to accomplish your daily goal.

Buy a pedometer. Make sure that you wear it clipped to your waistband or belt so that it will be an accurate reflection of your steps. Keep track of the number of steps you are currently taking. You may find that you are taking anywhere from 900 to 3000 steps per day, depending on the usual level of your activity.

Your goal is 10,000 steps per day. If your normal activities only allow 2000 steps per day, you will need to walk an additional 8000 steps. But don’t do all of that right away!

Gradually add a few hundred steps to your total and try to walk that number every day for about 2 weeks. Then add a few hundred more steps.

If you get chest pain, become overly tired, have shortness of breath, or feel weak or dizzy at any point, stop immediately and contact your clinician or emergency services. If you develop pain in your muscles or joints, you may be overdoing the walking. Inflammation in the muscles supporting the shin bone of your lower leg (tibia) is called “shin splints.”

Contrary to popular belief, shin splints are not tiny fractures of the shin bone, but they do result from excessive weight-bearing exercise and occur more frequently in those with flat feet. Plantar fasciitis (inflammation that causes pain on the sole of your foot) can be caused by the repetitive motion of walking and pounding your feet.

Rest up and decrease the number of steps in your day until you are feeling better. Some fitness experts recommend stretching exercises before and after walking to avoid pain in your shins, knees, and hips. Stretching should be done gently and just until you feel a stretch, but never bounce. Anything more than gentle stretching causes too much stress on the body’s ligaments. If you are unable to continue walking without pain or discomfort, contact your clinician.

When you are walking for exercise on the street, around a track, or on a treadmill, it is very important to have comfortable shoes with good support. Replace sneakers about every 6 months or sooner if you notice they are wearing out.

Drink water. Staying hydrated even if you’re walking in a comfortable temperature is important.

Maintain good posture while walking. There is often a tendency to walk with your head down. Try to keep your shoulders back and aligned over your hips, your head up, and for even more of a challenge, keep your abdominal muscles pulled in.

Once you are well established in your walking pro-gram, you can start to add small hand weights. Begin with 1-pound weights for each hand (or a 16-ounce bottle of water in each hand). You can even add ankle weights to make your walking more challenging once you’ve reached a level where you are comfortable. It’s important to consistently increase the load on your bones, and adding hand weights will also benefit your arms and upper back.

There are audio CDs and tapes that can make your walking routine more fun and challenging by adding alternate exercises and music. It’s important to stay interested and engaged in walking, and it’s an exercise you can do almost anywhere.

Be safe. If you walk in the evening or early morning before dawn, be sure to wear reflective tape on your clothing or sneakers. If you walk during the winter, avoid icy sidewalks so that you won’t fall. If you use headphones, be alert to traffic and your surroundings.