"Them bones, them bones, them dry bones"

by Mark Cooper

Osteoporosis

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I recently sat in on a Webinar entitled "Osteoporosis Update" put on by Arthritis and Osteoporosis Victoria. It was not the most enthralling topic (or speaker) but the take home message was absolute. In an ageing population osteoporosis has become a significant issue. 

For the uninitiated, osteoporosis is the process when bones lose their strength and density. When this happens they become fragile, brittle and weak and are much more prone to fracture. Sounds bad doesn't it. Well the good news is that osteoporosis for the most part is preventable (this may not be the case if there is pathology at play or genetic predisposition to osteoporosis).

 The 1,2,3 punch - Vitamin D, Calcium and Exercise

The key to prevention is calcium, Vitamin D and weight bearing exercise. It's a winning combination. Calcium is best sourced from food but there are many supplements on the market.

Vitamin D is what you get when sun and skin combine. This is a little tricky as too much sun can be bad for you so there are some guidelines for adequate sun exposure which are specific to your region in Australia or the world, even sunny Melbourne.

In the height of a Melbourne Summer: 6-8mins of sun exposure between 10am and 2pm.

In Winter: It is more like 30-50mins between the hours of 10am and 2pm. 

Walking is just not enough

We have become far too sedentary in our cushy western lifestyle and we all need to work a bit harder to have healthier bones. The National Osteoporosis Foundation (US) has some good guidelines on weight bearing and muscle strengthening exercise for healthy strong bones. (Always consult your health care professional before embarking on an exercise program.)

Some good examples of high impact weight bearing exercise are :

  • dancing
  • jogging
  • aerobics
  • hiking
  • stair climbing
  • tennis

Low impact exercise can be equally beneficial depending on the individuals situation and their relevant bone density:

  • eliptical trainers
  • low impact aerobics
  • fast walking (no lazy Sunday strolls)
  • aqua aerobics

Get pushy

Building muscle requires pushing some heavy things around. This can be done at the gym or any type of resistance training. Equally important for muscle building is how you move when you build that muscle. Doing balance exercises, functional movement exercises (e.g. squats, lunges) goes a long way to improving your overall range of movement and your ability to perform the muscle strengthening tasks. The more exercise the merrier, your bones and muscles will thank you.

So in combination with the Vitamin D and Caclium and and active lifestyle go forth and multiply your bone cells. That is our prescription for a healthier you.

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1. "Osteoporosis Update" - Webinar - Osteoporosis and Arthritis Victoria

2. http://nof.org/

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