Is Badminton Good for Osteoporosis?

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An older lady, all in pink, holding and pointing at a badminton racket

Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens bones, making them more fragile and prone to breaking or fracturing.

Imagine your body is your home and your bones are bricks. Normally, these bricks are strong and sturdy, providing solid support for your house. But in osteoporosis, these bricks become thinner and have more holes inside, making them weaker and can easily break.

A whole model House with that is complete with strong bricks
A broken model House with that is crumbling down with weak bricks

This condition often happens silently without showing any symptoms until a bone breaks easier than expected. This happens most commonly in older adults, and it can affect any bone in the body.

Preventing osteoporosis involves maintaining a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, especially weight-bearing activities like badminton, and eating a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, which are important for bone health. Regular check-ups with healthcare professionals are also crucial for early detection and proper management of osteoporosis.

Exercise, and badminton in particular, is one of the great ways we can help keep our bones strong and healthy, especially if you’re dealing with osteoporosis.

Understanding Osteoporosis: Prevalence, Causes, and Risk Factors

Osteoporosis is a degenerative bone disease characterized by diminished bone density, silently affecting millions worldwide, compromising skeletal integrity, and elevating the risk of fractures. This condition predominantly targets aging populations, with 1 in 3 women over the age of 50 years and 1 in 5 men experiencing osteoporotic fractures in their lifetime. [1]

An image showing the density of normal bone verses a bone with Osteoporosis

There are multiple causes of osteoporosis. Aging is a primary factor, as bone density naturally reduces with age. However, hormonal imbalances, particularly decreased estrogen in women post-menopause and reduced testosterone in men, contribute significantly. Other factors include poor nutrition, certain medications, genetics, underlying medical conditions affecting bone health, and significantly, a lack of physical activity.

Understanding the risk factors associated with osteoporosis is important. Lifestyle choices, such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and a sedentary routine, heighten the risk.

The Importance of Physical Activity in Osteoporosis Management

Staying active is very important when it comes to managing Osteoporosis. Exercise isn’t just about making your bones stronger; it also helps keep your muscles strong, keeps you steady on your feet, and lowers the chances of falling or breaking bones.

Regular exercise both protects and combats against osteoporosis problems. It stops your bones from getting weaker by reducing bone loss AND makes your bones stronger by stimulating bone formation.

But, it’s not just about your body; it’s about feeling better and staying strong while dealing with the challenges of osteoporosis.

Badminton Is Great for Osteoporosis

Badminton is more than just a fun backyard game, it’s a full-body workout! The fast rallies and movements around the court engage players in a rigorous cardiovascular workout, getting your heart pumping and making you fitter.

Not only are you getting fitter when you play badminton, you’re working out lots of muscles too! From your legs to your arms and even your core, making you stronger overall. It’s not just a game; it’s a great way to get fit, stronger, and more agile!

Not only is badminton fun; it’s perfect if you’re worried about Osteoporosis. It’s not too tough on your body but still gives you a good workout. Plus, it involves moving in different directions and carrying your weight, which is just what your bones need to stay strong. It’s a great way to boost your bone strength, build up your muscles, and help you keep your balance and coordination.

A badminton player serving a feathered shuttle over the net to opponents

But how does it specifically help with Osteoporosis?

Badminton is actually a great fit for people with osteoporosis and its characteristics align with recommended exercises for bone health! It’s gentle on your joints but engages in weight-bearing activities that stimulate bone strength.

This weight-bearing nature triggers bone-forming cells to become active, which causes calcium assimilation into the bone matrix (taking calcium into the bone), and so fortifies the bone structure.

Also, when you’re moving in different directions, like side-to-side or forward-backward, this trains your balance and coordination, which is also important to avoid falls and breaks.

Additionally, these varied movements (from lunges to smashes) actively engage multiple different muscle groups, helping to strengthen all your muscles and so further improving your overall balance and coordination.

And the best part? Even though there’s jumping and quick movements, it’s all pretty controlled, so it helps your bones without putting you at too much risk.

And, the last benefit that cannot and should not be overlooked is the benefit to your emotional and mental well-being that comes from getting out and playing a sport with other like-minded people.

An older lady, all in pink, holding and pointing at a badminton racket

Adaptations for Those at Higher Risk of Fractures

For individuals at a heightened risk of fractures or those who have previously experienced fractures, adjusting your exercise routine to fit you is important. Even playing badminton, although a low-impact sport, may require adjustments.

If you are a person new to physical exercise, starting slowly and building up will help enormously. Mitigating the effects of Osteoporosis won’t happen overnight. Avoiding high-impact movements, like a jump smash, is one such way to avoid needless risks.

Start by playing badminton at a walking pace as you get back into physical exercise, without putting unnecessary strain on your bones. 

For those who are new to badminton, check out our article How to Play Badminton: The Complete Guide, a great place to start.

How Much Exercise Do We Need to Keep Bones Healthy?

Exercising more is a great start for any individual, but how much do we exactly need for healthy bones?

Adults

For adults, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends a minimum of 150 minutes (equivalent to 2.5 hours) per week of moderate-intensity exercise or at least 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity exercise. Engaging in activities that increase your heart rate but you can still engage in normal conversation, such as brisk walking, cycling, or dancing falls under the spectrum of moderate-intensity exercises, while vigorous-intensity activities mean that you find it hard to participate in normal conversation and include activities such as running, swimming, or playing singles badminton.

Older Adults

Older adults are advised to incorporate a weekly regimen of 150 minutes of exercise, emphasizing a blend of balance training, aerobic exercises, and muscle-strengthening routines. This comprehensive approach aims to enhance stability, cardiovascular health, and muscle strength, crucial components for bone health. However, if unable to meet the 150-minute recommendation due to health constraints, they should be as physically active as their health permits.

Pregnant Women and Recent Mothers

During pregnancy and postpartum, women should aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise, distributed throughout the week. Pregnant women must consult healthcare providers to tailor exercises suitable for their changing bodies during and after pregnancy. Regular exercise during this period aids in maintaining bone strength while promoting overall well-being.

Adults with Osteoporosis, Chronic Health Conditions, or Disabilities

Adults dealing with chronic health conditions or disabilities are encouraged, if able, to engage in moderate-intensity exercise for 150 to 300 minutes per week or 75 to 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity exercise. Incorporating muscle-strengthening activities involving major muscle groups at least twice a week further supports bone health. Adjustments should be made based on individual health limitations while striving for maximum physical activity within their capabilities.

For most people with osteoporosis, you should aim for about 150 to 300 minutes per week of moderate-impact exercise.

However, if you have had spinal fractures or cannot do moderate exercise, you should aim for 20 minutes of lower-impact exercise on most days.

For people who are not physically strong enough or unable to do regular exercise, the main goal is to avoid prolonged periods of just sitting. Stand up for a few minutes every hour.

For more information and guidelines check out the NIH National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

Children and Teens

Children aged 6 to 17 should aim for at least 60 minutes of exercise every day, focusing on a combination of moderate and vigorous activities. Alongside this routine, muscle-strengthening exercises at least three days a week and bone-strengthening exercises at least three days a week are recommended. Encouraging various physical activities fosters bone development, muscle strength, and overall physical well-being in children and teens.

Exercise and keeping moving is important for bone health and osteoporosis for those of all ages and wellness, whether you have broken bones in the past or not. Being physically active and exercising helps you in so many ways.

For those who are scared that physical activity will lead to a broken bone, it is very unlikely that exercising will actually lead to a broken bone.

It is much more likely that the effect of not physically exercising will lead to an accident in your everyday life that could lead to a broken bone.

Other ways to keep your bones healthy

Maintaining bone health extends beyond exercise, it also involves a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients like calcium and vitamin D. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), adequate calcium intake is vital for bone health, with recommended daily allowances varying by age and gender. And in the UK the NHS recommends Adults aged 19 to 64 and over need 700mg of calcium a day. Sources of calcium include dairy products, leafy greens, fortified foods, and supplements.

An image with the word "Calcium" surrounded by foods that are high in Calcium

Vitamin D also plays a critical role in calcium absorption. Sunlight exposure, dietary sources such as fatty fish and fortified products, and supplements aid in achieving recommended vitamin D levels. The NIH and NHS provide advice on daily intake guidelines for vitamin D.

An image with the word "Vitamin D" surrounded by foods that are high in Vitamin D

However, interestingly, I have recently discovered that new science is beginning to suggest that supplementation isn’t all what it appears. I heard this on the amazing Podcast Zoe Science and Nutrition. They discuss all things Osteoporosis and agree that weight-bearing exercise (such as badminton) is one of the ways to combat Osteoporosis. Tim Spector (Co-host) also maintains that something that is fun and you enjoy is also key, so Badminton has you covered twice!

Tips for Playing Badminton with Osteoporosis

For individuals considering or already engaged in badminton as part of their osteoporosis management, adhering to certain guidelines and precautions is crucial:

Start Gradually

Begin with shorter sessions and low-intensity play, gradually increasing intensity and duration as your body adjusts. Allow time for adaptation to the physical demands of badminton to minimize the risk of injury.

Focus on Technique

Prioritize proper technique and form during badminton sessions to minimize stress on joints and bones.

Use Appropriate Footwear and Equipment

Wear supportive footwear designed for badminton to provide adequate stability and cushioning.

Warm-up and Cool Down

Before playing, engage in a thorough warm-up routine that includes stretching and mobility exercises to prepare muscles and joints. Similarly, finish sessions with a cooldown phase to gradually reduce heart rate and prevent muscle stiffness.

Be Mindful of Movements

Avoid sudden, jerky movements that may strain joints or lead to falls. Incorporate gradual and controlled movements across the court to minimize the risk of injuries.

Importance of Consulting Healthcare Professionals

Before initiating any exercise regimen, including badminton, individuals with osteoporosis should seek guidance from healthcare professionals, especially physicians or physical therapists. Consulting with a healthcare provider ensures personalized recommendations considering individual health conditions, bone strength, and risk factors.

Health professionals can offer tailored advice regarding the suitability and intensity of badminton as an exercise for osteoporosis management. They may provide specific precautions or modifications based on individual health status, bone density, and any previous fractures.

A diverse group of Health Care Professionals

Conclusion

Badminton stands as a commendable exercise offering multifaceted benefits for individuals managing osteoporosis. It offers a holistic approach to improving bone health and overall well-being. Embracing such physical pursuits not only aids in managing osteoporosis but also contributes to an active, fulfilling lifestyle.

Its low-impact yet stimulating nature fosters improvements in bone density, muscle strength, balance, and coordination, crucial for those navigating the challenges of Osteoporosis. The weight-bearing aspects, multidirectional movements, and adaptability make badminton a favorable choice for promoting bone health while enhancing overall physical fitness.

In conclusion, the amalgamation of exercise, including badminton, and a well-balanced diet comprising calcium and vitamin D-rich foods form a robust strategy for managing osteoporosis. It’s essential to consult healthcare providers before commencing any exercise routine or dietary changes.

Incorporating badminton into an osteoporosis management plan can offer numerous benefits, but it’s crucial to approach this exercise regimen cautiously and under professional guidance. Following these guidelines and seeking medical advice ensures safe and effective engagement in badminton while safeguarding against potential risks associated with osteoporosis.

Additional Resources

National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF): Visit the NOF website for comprehensive information on osteoporosis, exercise guidelines, and resources for managing bone health. 

Support Groups: Consider joining local or online support groups dedicated to osteoporosis. Connecting with others navigating similar experiences can offer invaluable emotional support and shared insights. Platforms like Reddit or Facebook often host communities focused on osteoporosis discussions and support.

Royal Osteoporosis Society: For a comprehensive resource dedicated to osteoporosis research, advice, and support, consider exploring the Royal Osteoporosis Society’s website. Their platform provides extensive information on bone health, exercise recommendations, and practical guidance for managing osteoporosis

These resources offer a wealth of information, guidance, and community support for individuals seeking further knowledge on osteoporosis management, exercise regimens, and strategies to enhance bone health. Exploring these avenues can empower individuals to make informed decisions about their osteoporosis care and exercise routines.

References

[1] Sözen T, Özışık L, Başaran NÇ. An overview and management of osteoporosis. Eur J Rheumatol. 2017 Mar;4(1):46-56. doi: 10.5152/eurjrheum.2016.048. Epub 2016 Dec 30. PMID: 28293453; PMCID: PMC5335887.

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