Yesterday morning I heard a distressing story on the radio about osteoporosis medication increases the risk of unusual and serious fractures. Women taking osteoporosis drugs called bisphosphonates are nearly five times as likely to have a serious unusual fracture. Osteoporosis is a serious condition as hip and other fractures are terrible accidents, yet the side effects of the medication may be worse.
One answer for many women may be tai chi. This may particular a good choice for women who have osteopenia, when the bones are beginning to soften, but do not yet have osteoporosis, as the tai chi may be able to prevent the disease from progressing.
Tai Chi for Osteopenia
I always recommend my patients concerned about osteoporosis and osteopenia to try tai chi for helping to strengthen there bones and improve their balance. I think it works better than acupuncture and Chinese herbs.
It seems too easy and simple, but there is more than meets the eye. Tai chi is a slow moving, gentle, and meditative Chinese martial art which is focused on maintaining relaxation and balance.
Peter Wayne, PhD, is researcher and tai chi teacher in Boston. He is currently working on a study of women with osteopenia using tai chi with a goal of improving their bone density. His theory is that tai chi can help slow or potentially reverse bone loss.
Why would Tai Chi Help Osteopenia?
Peter and his team have described why they believe Tai Chi can help osteopenia.
1. Tai chi practitioners hold their center of gravity low to the ground. They generally stand with their knees bent and their weight is almost constantly shifting from one leg to another allowing gentle exercise on many of the lower body joints .
2. Postmenopausal women who regularly practice tai chi for many years have a higher bone density than those women who do not.
3. Postmenopausal women who begin tai chi practice have shown an increase in bone density.
4. The other great thing about tai chi is that it is easy and there are little risks of side effects.
Tai Chi Classes and Styles
There are many different tai chi forms, including the Wu, Chen, and Yang. I practice the Wu style tai chi, but I believe that all of the styles are effective for helping to strengthen the body.
Finding a class is easy. In NYC most of the community centers, YMCA’s, 92nd street Y, the JCC and gyms have classes. I am a fan of Maggie Newman, one of the original tai chi teachers in NYC.