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Is Yard Work Really Good for Osteoporosis?

June 01, 2018

Now that the weather has started to turn warmer and the grass has started to grow, many of us will be spending a considerable amount of time pruning and planting bushes, cutting the lawn, or weeding the vegetable garden. We call this work and that is true. One could argue that this “work” is actually exercise. What we often don’t realize is doing all of this “work” is also giving benefits beyond a well-manicured lawn.

 

In fact, yard work has been shown to have the same positive effect on bone density as weight training1. Other activities that we more commonly consider exercise were found to rank behind yard work. Things like jogging, swimming, calisthenics, bicycling, aerobics, and walking had a less positive effect on bone density. Maintaining or improving bone density is very important, especially as we age.

 

Loss of bone density is one of the characteristics of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a chronic, systemic bone disorder that is characterized by low bone density, deterioration of bone tissue, loss of bone strength, and an increase in bone fracture risk2. Often the first time someone realizes they have osteoporosis is after a fracture. These can be fractures due to a fall or in more severe cases a rib or spine fracture from coughing or sneezing. During diagnosis of the fracture is when the patient is told they have osteoporosis. Because of the pain and disability that these fractures create many of these patients are referred to physical therapy.

 

Physical therapy is often prescribed to assist patients in gradually returning to their prior level of function. After taking measures to reduce pain and improve mobility, the next phase of physical therapy typically involves strengthening exercises to help prevent recurrence. In cases of patients with osteoporosis this involves development of a home exercise program that contains resistance training. This is important as strength training has been shown to improve bone density.

 

When prescribing a home exercise program for a patient, many will lament that they are not really “into” exercise or have never been good at being consistent with an exercise program. If you happen to fall into this category you are in luck. As indicated above, yard work has been shown to be as beneficial as weight training. Perhaps this becomes your home exercise program – yard work two to three times per week. Better yet, doing yard work frequently may help you avoid osteoporosis or a fracture in the first place.

 

To quote Benjamin Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Have questions about the right type of exercises to do or if there are certain types of yard work that you should avoid? Contact our office for an evaluation and we can develop a prevention plan for you.

 

 

1. Influence of yard work and weight training on bone mineral density among older U.S. women. J Women Aging. 2002;14(3-4):139-48.

2. World Health Organization (2003) Prevention and management of osteoporosis: WHO Technical Report series no. 92. http://whqlibdoc.who.int/trs/who_trs_92pdf


 

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