This week is Health Bone action week…. So why do we need a week about Bones?
4.7 millions Australians over the age of 50 have Osteoporosis or poor bone health (Osteoporosis Australia, 2014). It is also alarming that the prevalence of bone disease has continued to increase in recent years. Good bone is essential as it is the tissue that provides the structure for muscle to attach, protect our more delicate tissues and act as a reservoir for both calcium and phosphorus (really important in blood cell formation). Healthy bones week is a good opportunity to reflect on whether we are taking as much care of our bones as we could.
As we age the human body increases its fragility which is a somewhat inevitable process due to ageing.
On the contrary, a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle will delay the changes associated with ageing. Along with maintaining a balanced diet, regularly exercising as we age is crucial to prevent bone deterioration. The literature has found that weight-bearing exercise can trigger a response in the body that increases bone formation. To put it in really simple terminology, muscles pull on bone, and to protect itself the bone gets stronger. The increases in bone mineral density when the body is put under significant load is important in fighting Osteoporosis (which is caused by decreased bone mineral density).
So what exactly is weight bearing exercise?
Exercise that requires you to experience the force of gravity is considered weight bearing. Examples include weight training, walking, running, ball sports or pretty much anything where you are on your feet. Exercise such as cycling or swimming, while excellent for cardiovascular fitness, will not elicit enough strain on the bone to strengthen them.
Exercise prescription for improving bone mineral density
Research by Turner & Robling (2003) provided evidence that is is better to do more sessions with more load/intensity more often with less duration for bone strength. A practical way of looking at this would be performing weight bearing exercise twice per day for 20 minutes each time rather than one 40 minute session. In the same article it was stated that proper exercise can reduce the likelihood of damage to the bone even without having a significant impact on the bone density. This is especially important later in life as by improving balance and postural stability the risk of falls decreases. (Turner & Robling 2003).
Quick tips to increase bone strength:
- Exercise outside where safe to increase exposure to vitamin D
- Ensure adequate calcium consumption
- Perform a combination of weight-bearing exercises regularly
“Old age is like everything else. To make a success of it, you’ve got to start young”
– Fred Astaire
For more information, please visit: http://www.healthybones.com.au/
Turner, C & Robling, A 2003, ‘Designing exercise regimens to increase bone strength’, Exercise And Sport Sciences Reviews, vol. 31, no. 1, pp. 45-50.