pilates and osteoporosis – a fantastic complement at the hundred pilates studio in dubai

August 31, 2013

Exercise for osteoporosis is a confusing subject. There are exercises for prevention. There are exercises for rehab. And, when osteoporosis is present, there is always the issue of exercise safety.
Pilates, specifically, is a form of exercise that is often mentioned with regard to osteoporosis. But in Pilates there are definite parameters as far as what exercises are appropriate for osteoporosis at the same time, Pilates exercises can be very beneficial for osteoporosis, improving bone density and muscle strength.

We must have strong bones that can bear our weight and allow us mobility. But with so many dynamics playing into the exercise for osteoporosis scenario, we really need to know what we are doing when we exercise for osteoporosis. In the interview below, Rebekah Rotstein, founder of Incorporating Movement, a Pilates and Movement education organization, and the designer of the Pilates for Buff Bones® workout, helps us clarify the role of exercise, Pilates, and Pilates equipment with regard to osteoporosis and bone strengthening. This is a great introduction for you when visiting The Hundred Pilates Studio and stepping onto the likes of the Pilates Reformer, Cadillac and the wonderful Wunda (chair)!


Pilates Cadillac, Reformer and Chair at The Hundred Pilates Studio in Dubai | www.thehundred.ae

Pilates Cadillac, Reformer and Chair at The Hundred Pilates Studio in Dubai | www.thehundred.ae


Rebekah, we have all heard that weight-bearing exercise helps prevent osteoporosis. How does it do that?
Bone is dynamic tissue, like muscle, that strengthens in response to forces it has to resist. Gravity is one such force, and working against gravity is what we refer to when speaking of “weight-bearing exercise.” The combination of compression and tension from gravity and from our muscles plays a major role in bone strengthening. But the prevention of osteoporosis also comes from impact like jumping or running where the bone is “loaded” to an extent that it has to accommodate these forces, basically reinforcing itself to sustain future forces. (Note that if someone has extremely low bone density or has already experienced a fracture, high impact could be contraindicated.)

Should we be making a distinction between weight bearing exercises and resistance exercises?
Weight-bearing exercises are technically anything standing, although I include quadruped (on hands and knees) in this since you bear the weight of your trunk through your hands and transmit forces via your wrists. The wrists are a critical site to strengthen because they are the most common site of osteoporotic fractures along with the spine and hip.

Resistance exercises simply involve muscles pulling on the bone to create tension which also fortifies the bone. The resistance can come from weights, elastic bands or springs. But you can also consider your own body weight as resistance in some instances, like a push-up. In this example, you’re using gravity and your own body weight to provide resistance and induce muscle pull.

The best formula for bone strengthening, in addition to the high-impact we discussed before, occurs where you combine weight-bearing with resistance training. So weighted squats, or using an elastic band while standing or performing standing lat pulls, would be good additions to a bone workout regimen.

I know there are some limits around Pilates and osteoporosis which we will discuss later, but in terms of prevention, is Pilates enough?
Pilates is a wonderful means for strengthening the body, establishing efficient movement patterns, and aligning the joints and the axial skeleton (among numerous other benefits!). But your bones need additional loading to prevent osteoporosis as well as the general bone loss that naturally occurs with age. This loading comes from weights, squats and high impact exercises like running and jumping. You need to move in new ways and to “surprise” the bone, as some researchers are now saying. Bone tissue gets lazy so we need to keep it on its toes, all pun intended! We need to move in differing directions and at different speeds to encourage the bone to continue to strengthen.

So Pilates is an invaluable tool to complement bone-loading techniques and to prevent injuries and falls. We have to remember that the real danger with osteoporosis is the devastating falls that can induce a fracture. Pilates, with its emphasis on posture, alignment and balance as well as full body integrated movements, offers a fantastic platform when combined with other functional (upright), impact-based and resistance exercise. Furthermore, Pilates establishes good form for weight training so that the forces best transmit through a well-aligned spine and hips. And remember, exercise must be accompanied by other healthy lifestyle habits including proper nutrition to mineralize the bones.

What would an adequate Pilates exercise program for prevention of osteoporosis need to include?
A Pilates osteoporosis-prevention program needs to include sufficient back strengthening (spinal extension and scapular stability) as well as hip and wrist strengthening. I recommend re-evaluating your programming to be sure that the back gets attention – and specifically the upper thoracic. Many of us cheat by relying on our lumbar spine for the extension! That upper back strength has been shown to improve balance and reduce risk of falls too. And of course core control is integral in order to achieve that upper back extension. More standing should occur near the end of the workout too to make the work functional, integrating the feet, and for additional weight-bearing.

What about exercise with the larger Pilates equipment like reformer and Pilates chair? Are they safe for people with osteoporosis?
The Pilates equipment is terrific for those with osteoporosis because the springs provide the resistance needed for bone strengthening and offer limitless movement possibilities, both within the classical repertoire and beyond. The chair is a great machine for weight-bearing, functional exercises in particular.

Which Pilates exercises are best for people with osteoporosis?
I recommend side, front and back splits on the reformer (as appropriate for the client’s level) since they’re weight-bearing and improve balance, just like the standing leg pumps and mountain climber on the wunda chair. Pulling straps on the reformer is great for the back and shoulders as are the swan on the chair and cadillac.

What kinds of movements should people with osteoporosis avoid? Those with osteoporosis should avoid spinal flexion (forward bending) – especially when its loaded like in rolling like a ball.
They should also avoid motions that incorporate flexion with side bending and rotation. Any side bending should emphasize a lengthening of the spine rather than pure side-bending which many exaggerate and collapse into flexing as well without realizing it. The key is to “off-load” the front, or anterior portion, of the vertebral body [spine].


If you have been diagnosed by you doctor with Osteoporosis or would like to halt the process (it is NEVER too late or too early to do so!), give us a call and book in a consultation with us. We can guide you to a private one-on-one session or our small group sessions, both are dynamic, fun and a fantastic workout for your muscles, bones, body and mind. We are a fully equipped boutique studio in Dubai Healthcare City offering Mat, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair Pilates classes. To view our timetable, visit: http://www.thehundred.ae or call us to meet one of our experts and book a consultation at: 04 429 8433

Article Sourced: http://www.incorporatingmovement.com/