Slips and falls are common with the ice and outdoor activities Lake Tahoe residents are accustom to. However, for people with osteoporosis falling down can lead to devastating results. Osteoporosis is the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time, and it is a major health concern. According to a 2004 report by the Office of the Surgeon General, 10 million individuals today have osteoporosis and another 33.6 million have osteopenia or low bone mass which is the beginning stages of osteoporosis.
This leads to over 1.5 million osteoporotic fractures annually. Coming from someone that has broken multiple bones before, not only is it painfully but it can cost a substantial amount of money as well. In the same report the Surgeon General states that, “caring for these fractures is expensive. Studies show that annual direct care expenditures for osteoporotic fractures range from $12 to $18 billion per year in 2002 dollars. Indirect costs (e.g., lost productivity) likely add billions of dollars to this figure. These costs could double or triple in the coming decades”.
Many heath care professionals recommend weight bearing activates to help prevent the decline of bone quality. The National Osteoporosis Foundation groups weight bearing activities into 3 subgroups: high-impact (jumping, gymnastics, tennis, etc.), low impact (elliptical machine, walking, cross-country skiing, etc.) and muscle-strengthen (weight training, Pilates, yoga, etc.). Bone is similar to muscle in that it can increase in size and quality if the proper stress is applied. The term, minimal essential strain refers to the stimulus needed to initiate new bone growth. The force that is needed to reach minimal essential strain is thought to be roughly 1/10th of the force required to cause a fracture. Depending on the individual anything from heavy barbell squats to simply squatting from a chair will be enough to encourage bone growth in younger individuals and help prevent the decline of bone mass and bone mineral density in older individuals. Calcium and Vitamin D and also critical to bone health. Calcium is a mineral needed by the body for healthy bones, teeth, and proper function of the heart, muscles, and nerves. The body cannot produce calcium; it must be absorbed through food. Vitamin D is important for good bone health because it aids in the absorption and utilization of calcium.
Women are more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. According to the same Surgeon General Report roughly 4 in 10 Caucasian women 50 or older in America will experience a hip, spine or wrist fracture. While peak bone mass in acquired by most before age 29, weight bearing activities are important to slow the decline of bone mass that appears to happen as we age. This was illustrated quite well in a recent case study involving two elite female power lifters. Two women aged 48 and 54 whom had engaged in high intensity strength training for over 30 years were examined. The researchers tested for bone mass and bone mineral content. The two women not only had good scores compared to other women their age, they had better bone mineral content and bone mass than the average 20-29 year old woman.
The results of the study published in the march 2012 edition of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research involving the two women shows that with proper loading, muscle-strengthen activities may work just as well. My personal recommendation is to try several different weight bearing activities and see which one you like and tolerate the best. As always, please consult your doctor prior to starting any exercise program.