Osteoporosis – What, Why and Who.
Osteoporosis is a bone disease affecting 200 million individuals worldwide.
Exactly what is Osteoporosis? Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass that turns the latticework of bone fragile that can then break easily during simple activity. Fractures can occur anywhere, but there is an increased susceptibility to fractures of the hip, spine and wrist.
What is bone? Bone is a solid, rigid, ossified connective tissue forming the skeletal system. Our bones provide structural support for muscles, protect vital organs, and store the calcium essential for bone density and strength.
Who is at risk for Osteoporosis? Risk factors of osteoporosis are family history, smoking, poor diet, and lack of exercise. Women can lose up to 20% of their bone mass in the five to seven years following menopause making them susceptible to osteoporosis.
Role of Exercise and Osteoporosis
There are two types of exercise that are essential to maintaining healthy bones – weight bearing and resistance training. Weight bearing exercises are those in which your bones and muscles work against gravity. Some examples are walking, stair climbing, dancing, and jogging. Swimming and bicycling are not considered weight bearing.
The second type of exercise is resistance training. A common form of resistance exercise is weight training, done with barbells or dumbbells and/or equipment available at fitness centers.
Muscular strengthening exercises increase co-ordination and balance, reducing risk of falls. Bones respond to the increased load during weight lifting exercises by increasing mass to spread the load over a larger amount of bone.
A recent study from the Institute of Medical Physics, University of Erlangen, Germany studied the benefits of 2 years of intense exercise on bone density, physical fitness and blood lipids in early postmenopausal osteopenic women. The results of this study concluded: “General purpose exercise programs with special emphasis on bone density can significant improve strength and endurance and reduce bone loss, back pain and lipid levels in osteopenic women in their critical early postmenopausal years.”
For an exercise program to help maintain healthy bones, it needs to be continued. Please check with your physician before starting any exercise program and please consult a personal fitness professional to assist you in the implementation of an exercise program.