How healthy are your bones? May is National Osteoporosis Month, and we thought it would be a good time to talk about a condition that affects about 200 million people worldwide. The International Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men ages 50 and older will have a fracture due to osteoporosis. Bone loss increases dramatically for women in the years after menopause, but by age 70 men catch up to that rate and are equally at risk. At Holly's Pilates Village, we have a dedicated program to help people counter the effects of osteoporosis. Our Bone Strong for Osteoporosis program includes Pilates, Yoga, and Strength Training to improve balance, coordination, strength, and stamina. With regular practice, it can lead to dramatic improvements in bone health. Check out some of these results:
After 10 years on using medication to treat her osteoporosis, Nancy said "no more." She turned to exercise to counter the effects of osteoporosis and has felt invigorated by our Bone Strong Pilates and Yoga classes. Recently she received the happy news that she no longer has osteoporosis.
Jean, age 88, grew 1/2 an inch of height last year thanks to her dedicated Bone Strong Pilates practice. Her doctor was amazed at the results of exercises that helped her stop compressing her spine.
Lisa came to the studio two years ago. After one doctor warned her, "Don't fall!" when asked what she she should do about her osteoporosis, Lisa was frightened about hurting herself with everyday movements. Now she participates in our Bone Strong for Osteoporosis program 3 times a week and says she's never been stronger. "I think about Pilates a lot during the day," she says. "How can I do it right, do it stronger, do it safer? I'm 65 and I think, 'there's no end to what I can do!'"
Other people newly diagnosed with osteoporosis have recalled their surprise, terror, and anger at discovering that their bones have become brittle. Those most frustrated say they have been actively exercising for years and thought that would protect them from osteoporosis.
Exercise can indeed help you build stronger bones. But not all exercises are the same when it comes to osteoporosis.
The challenge as we age is that bones get used to the stresses that we place on them through our normal activities – and that includes the same exercises that we do routinely. For bones to get stronger, they need novelty, or surprise, such as increased speed or duration of a movement or an entirely different form of impact. If you’re an avid fitness walker, for example, your heart and lungs will surely benefit from the exercise, but your bones probably are not. Initially, your bones did get stronger from walking. But because you now have moved beyond the novelty phase, your body needs other forms of impact to build new bone on top of the progressive bone loss that occurs for most people as they age.
Other common forms of exercise, such as barre classes, don't take into account how dangerous spinal flexion movements are for those who have osteoporosis. The solution is not to give up on exercise – far from it! The key is to focus on the research-based methods that will ensure your bones get the best workout possible.
First, the exercise must create impact for the bones. Striking your heel against the floor as you do when jumping is a good example of an impact move. Swimming laps is not. There's no force on the bones.
Second, bones need resistance and tension on the muscles that specifically pull on those bones. Performing wall push-ups is an example of effective resistance for the bones of the wrist and shoulders.
Third, bones need meaningful loads that exceed the stresses they receive through our everyday activities. Holding a stable standing yoga pose for about 8 seconds rather than racing through to the next pose is a good example of meaningful load.
We have continually evolved our Bone Strong for Osteoporosis program to keep the exercises fresh and challenging for you. We encourage you to take advantage of the Pilates and Yoga classes that are specifically designed to counter the effects of osteoporosis. But consider trying CoreAlign too because of the dynamic movements that create resistance and meaningful loads for bones throughout the body. Also, check out the short videos that Studio Owner Holly Holland has created on the Bone Strong for Osteoporosis YouTube channel. Use them for at-home workouts or to refine skills that you have learned in the studio.