Your questions answered by body fitness expert Joanna Hall

I am a 63-year-old woman, recently diagnosed with osteoporosis. Part of my treatment involves attending the gym. Could you please advise on what exercises I may need to avoid.

Osteoporosis is often called a young person’s disease with an old face — the actions we take when we are young can directly affect our risk of suffering from this in later life. But it is never too late to start exercising.

What you need to avoid depends partly on where you have decreased bone density. Ask for clarification on this from your GP. If you have osteoporosis in your spine, avoid exercises that involve bending forward from the hip, including traditional abdominal exercises, such as lying on the floor with your hands behind your head and curling up. Avoid any twisting of the spine and movements that may encourage you to fall. Apply caution in and out of the gym.

Strong abdominal muscles, however, are important for back care. The following leg slide exercise tightens the whole of the abdominal area without putting strain on the vertebrae. Remove shoes and socks. Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor and arms by your side. First perform a pelvic tilt, tilting your lower back to lift your bottom off the floor while the waist stays on the floor. Hold the tilt and breathe out while sliding one leg forward along the floor as far as possible, keeping the heel on the floor. Hold for three seconds. Inhale and return to the starting position.

Try to do your gym session twice a week. Your instructor should evolve your programme every six weeks. Step classes can also be a great way to maintain bone density in a fun environment. Studies show that social interaction in later life can be as important as diet and physical activity, so enjoy getting active, getting social and getting strong.

· Joanna Hall is a fitness expert. Send your exercise questions to Weekend, 119 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3ER ([email protected]).

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