By Michael Hall,
Want to prevent osteoporosis? Find out how with the latest research.
A new study published today in Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences has revealed that the concept of using it or lose it when it comes to bone health, may not be quite so true after all.
The study of major league baseball players pitching arms proves that the strength of your bones in later life is determined by the quality of exercises that you do in your youth.
In the study, researchers measured the cross-sectional size, torsional strength, bone mass and bone mineral density of the humerus (the upper arm bone), in 103 professional baseball players at various stages of their career.
They discovered that the cross-sectional area, a key determinant of bone strength, even decades after players stopped playing baseball.
In fact, in comparing baseball players who continued to play against those who completely stopped once their careers were over, they found that even former players in their nineties, who hadn’t thrown a ball in fifty years, still retained more than half the throwing related increase in bone size and around one third the bone strength as those who continued to play. Players who continued to play not only maintained their bone size, but also the bone strength.
These findings suggest that to increase and maintain bone strength throughout life, it is important to focus on exercise which applies resistance and loading to the skeleton, especially early in life. They provide evidence that the more bone that is banked up until the mid-20s (when bone strength peaks), the more a person may be protected from osteoporotic fractures later in life.
But what are the best type of exercises? Evidence indicates that the best exercises are ones that involve:
- Higher impact
- Strength training
- Fewer repetitions and sets
For pre-menopausal women, evidence indicates that that high impact exercise only strengthened the hips and not the lower back. Only when high impact and strengthening exercises were combined did the bones of both the hip and low back get stronger.
For postmenopausal women, again only a combination of high impact exercise (etc. jogging, walking and stair climbing) and strength training was found to be effective.3 Walking has been found to have no effect for a strengthening of the bones in the lower back and only a little at the hips which are probably not clinically significant.
Another study of 180 men (aged 50-79 years) with a low bone mass over 18 months found that combining the drinking of fortified milk plus strength training three times each week, achieved the best results for both strengthening of the bones of the lower back and the hips.
A Cochrane review found, however, that to reduce the rates of falls, these exercise programs must be combined with balance retraining, an individual risk assessment, along with home safety modifications performed by an occupational therapist. Vitamin D supplements fall education and hip protectors at home were all found NOT to be effective in reducing the risk of falls or preventing hip fractures.
Whilst you may not have control over some risk factors for osteoporosis such as being female, Caucasian/Asian with a small body build, delayed puberty or early menopause and prolonged use of certain medications (e.g. corticosteroids, heparin, immune-suppressive, anti-epileptics and others), there are many factors that you do have control over. These include not exercising, smoking, excessive alcohol use, low body weight, low calcium intake, decreased strength and poor balance.
Like all things in life, prevention is better than cure. In many ways, if you focus on the things that you can control, and control them perfectly, many of the adverse health effects associated with aging become less of a risk. The choice is up to you. Get clearance from your doctor or health professional and then begin an exercise program (combining impact, strength training and balance), stop smoking, reduce your alcohol intake and enjoy a diet with adequate calcium and vitamin D (plus correct sun exposure).
At Bodywise Health, we have put together the perfect osteoporosis and falls program by combining Clinical Pilates with strengthening exercises and balance training. If you are worried about being or becoming osteoporotic or have a fear of falling, then this program is designed to give you the confidence and security you need to enjoy living an active and full life.
For a FREE clinical pilates trial or physical assessment, please call 1 300 BODYWISE (263 994). Please note, due to limited places, this offer is open to the first 30 people.
- Warden, S.T., Roosa, S.M., et al (2014) Physical activity when young provides lifelong benefits to cortical bone size and strength in men.Proceedings of the National Acedemy of Sciences of the United States of America.http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1321605111
- Martyn-St James & Carroll J Bone Miner Metab 2010
- Martyn-St James & Carroll BJSM 2011
- Martyn-St James & Carroll Bone 2008; Bonaiuti et al Cochrane Review 2003;
- Kukuljan et alJ Clin Endocrinol Metab 2011
- Gillespie et al Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2012
For more information or for an appointment, please call Bodywise Health on 1 300 263 994.
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- For complex or chronic conditions, you may qualify for the EPC (Enhanced Primary Care Program) allowing you to receive 5 allied health services each calendar year with a referral from your GP. For more information, please call Bodywise Health now on 1 300 263 994.