We have recently received quite a large number of Doctor referrals for patients suffering from Osteoporosis and its precursor Osteopenia, so this article is timely.

The What and Why:

Osteoporosis is a common condition affecting over 1 million Australians. Bones become fragile and brittle. This leads to a higher risk of fractures in contrast to normal bone. Osteoporosis occurs when bones become deficient in minerals such as calcium, more rapidly than the body can replace them. This leads to a reduction in bone thickness (either bone density or bone mass). The main causes of Osteoporosis are heredity (symptoms that run in the family) as well as a natural tendency to lose bone tissue as we age. Gradual bone loss begins at 30 to 40 years of age. Without sounding confronting, this age group more than likely represents the majority of the demographic who will be reading this article.

(Not so) Fun facts and figures:

· Osteoporosis affects about two in every three women and one in three men, over 60 years old. · Worldwide, 1 in 3 women over 50 will experience Osteoporotic fractures, as will 1 in 5 men. · A 10% loss of bone mass in the vertebrae can double the risk of vertebral fractures. Similarly, a 10% loss of bone mass in the hip can result in a 2.5 times increased risk of hip fracture. · A prior fracture is associated with an 86% increased risk of any fracture.

The role that exercise plays: Exercise causes bones to modify their shape and size, so they become stronger and better protected from injury. In children and in inactive adults with low bone mass, regular exercise increases bone mass. In healthy active adults, vigorous exercise helps to prevent typical age-related bone loss. Exercise also increases muscle strength and improves balance, which reduces the risk of falling.

Some research to back up the facts:

Study 1:  If 23 women in their mid-sixties had trained their main muscle groups three times a week, performing 3 sets of each exercise with a weight they could only complete for 10 repetitions, whilst a control group of women of the same age did nothing. The training program significantly reduced the decline in bone mass in the vertebrae and the femoral head (common sites for fractures), whilst simultaneously increasing the training subjects upper and lower body strength levels by 45% and 39% respectively. The trained subjects body fat percentage had also reduced from 31%to 27%. Study 2: A Norwegian study involved eight women, who had been post-menopausal for at least two years, and were suffering from Osteoporosis. The subjects trained the lower body using a variation of a squat exercise for 12 weeks, where 4 sets of 3-5 repetitions at a weight 85-90% of their 1 repetition maximum were completed. A control group of eight women didn’t train (I’m sure there were many volunteers for this group).

On completion of the study, the bone mass in the lower vertebrae (Lumbar spine) of the experimental group increased by nearly 5%. The researchers also observed the same trend in the neck of the thigh bone. Furthermore, the maximal strength of the women in the experimental group had almost doubled. It is important to learn correct techniques for resistance training exercises, prior to commencing a regular program (particularly with the loads used in the study 2 example). This will help prevent more harm than good from occurring. Your Optimum Exercise Physiologist can help assess your readiness for a more intense resistance training program, and teach you the correct movement patterns to help you stimulate positive changes in bone shape and size.

Book in today for your free consultation, and see how we can help you increase bone density and eliminate Osteoporosis.

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