Wednesday, 19 October 2011


Tomorrow, October 20, is World Osteoporosis Day, so I decided that this would be an appropriate time to provide you with some insight into osteoporosis and the importance of exercise in managing and preventing this condition.

Osteoporosis refers to a decrease in bone mass and bone quality, mainly due to increasing age. After the age of 35 years, there is a reduction in the activity of the cells that contribute to bone formation. This results in reduced bone mass. This is a concern because it puts these weaker bones at an increased risk for fracture. A bone density scan is the most accurate way to diagnose osteoporosis.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) found that every 1 in 2 women and 1 in 8 men over the age of 50 are likely to experience an osteoporotic fracture at some stage in their lives. Women are at a much higher risk for osteoporosis due to the reduction in estrogen levels following menopause, while men generally experience bone loss much later on in life (after age 70) and to a much lesser extent, as a result of reduced testosterone production.

ACSM identifies the following risk factors for osteoporosis:
·         Females are at a higher risk than males
·         Increasing age
·         Race – Caucasian/Asian
·         Family history of osteoporosis
·         Low body weight for height (individuals with small frames)
·         Early menopause
·         Prolonged premenopausal amenorrhea (missed periods over a long duration)
·         Low testosterone levels in men
·         Lack of physical activity
·         Smoking
·         Excessive alcohol consumption
·         Low dietary calcium intake
·         Chronic use of medications causing bone loss (e.g. steroids)

It is essential that adequate calcium is ingested as part of one’s diet, particularly during a child’s growth years, as this is when the bones are forming and developing. The Good Life Dietitians can provide more insight into dietary requirements for osteoporosis.

In terms of exercise, it is essential that individuals keep physically active throughout their lives in order to prevent osteoporosis. This means performing aerobic, weight-bearing activity at least 3 times per week for 30 to 45 minutes. If you already have osteoporosis, then the types of exercises you can perform depend on the degree of severity of osteoporosis, as one does not want to increase the risk for injury or fracture. Weight-bearing exercises are particularly important in building bone strength. These exercises include walking, squats and lunges. ACSM recommends aerobic, weight-bearing activities 4 days per week and resistance exercises 2 to 3 days per week. By strengthening the muscles around the bones, bone mass is conserved and the muscles can support the weaker bones. It is essential that balance exercises are performed on a regular basis in order to reduce the risk of falling and thus injury or fracture. Functional exercises that will assist an individual to perform the activities of daily living are also recommended.

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