Move it or lose it
Hey, lazy bones, get up and work out!
The first thing that comes to mind when you talk about bone is calcium. But the journey to good bone health does not stop at getting the right nutrients. Getting the right exercise is also important for strengthening bones.
Don't think that our bones are rigid. In fact, they're not only strong, but also flexible. That's how gymnasts are able to bend their bodies to seemingly impossible shapes without breaking their bones!
Because bone is living tissue, it is constantly reacting to the stress human activities put on it. With the right exercise and training, you can bend your bones to unbelievable angles too.
A bone consists of a combination of collagen and mineral crystals comprising calcium and phosphate. This collagen matrix allows bone to expand and contract without breaking. In other words, your bones will respond and become stronger to resist the force that regular exercise puts on it. Similarly, if you are physically inactive, your bones get weaker and more frail, exposing them to greater risk of fracture.
It's a weight thing
Any exercise that requires you to carry your weight and go against gravity can help you improve or maintain bone mass. The strain of carrying your weight and the push and pull of your muscles will stimulate bone formation, thus making it stronger.
High-impact, weight-bearing exercises are the most effective for building strong bones, but do them only if you don't have low bone mass or osteoporosis.
Exercise is meant to build bone, not break it. Activities like running, jumping, hiking, and dancing, and playing sports like tennis and badminton constitute high-impact weight-bearing exercises.
On the other hand, low-impact weight-bearing exercises like walking and low-impact aerobics are more suitable for those who want to build strong bones but cannot do high-impact exercises. You can also do resistance training and strengthening exercises like lifting weights or doing pushups.
Be safe, however, by consulting your doctor or personal trainer first to avoid hurting yourself.
For the elderly, fall-related fractures can be debilitating. Up to 20% of those suffering from a hip fracture die within a year, while two thirds of those who survive are disabled. Precautionary measures need to be taken to prevent this from happening.
Besides making sure that your house and surroundings are free from fall risks, you must also take steps to improve your balance and posture through exercise. Doing tai chi or yoga can give you better balance, posture, and coordination, which in turn can help prevent falls.
Everybody can do it
Exercise for healthy bone can be tailored to suit every life stage and need. Exercise can help build healthy bone during childhood and maintain bone health during adulthood. Older people who exercise regularly can strengthen their bones and reduce their risk of fracture.
So no matter what age you are, or what physical condition you are in, you can find an exercise that benefits you.
Although non-weight-bearing exercises can have cardiovascular benefits and are good for building muscles, they are not necessarily as effective as weight bearing ones. So if we're talking about good bone health, then any activity that places a load on your bones is the way to go.
It is, however, dangerous to exercise without knowing your limits. Too much exercise can cause stress fractures and joint damage. Some exercises may even cause falls and so increase your risk of fractures. Those with osteoporosis and the elderly can put themselves at greater risk of fractures if they start off a rigorous exercise regime without consulting a doctor or physician.
Every exercise should be tailored to suit your needs and abilities. Approximately 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week is generally recommended, but if you have low bone mass, are over the age of 50, or osteoporotic, you should seek professional advice before starting an exercise routine.
Be wary of common exercise pitfalls like laziness or time constraints. Exercise can be incorporated in your daily lives to suit your needs and lifestyle so it doesn't have to be a chore. Be creative and make sure you enjoy doing it. That way, you will be more likely to continue doing it instead of putting in a half-hearted effort.
Building healthy bone is a lifelong commitment and physical activity can go a long way in helping you achieve it. Whether you're at home, work, or school, you can incorporate exercise to suit your lifestyles. In the end, what matters is that you get moving and that you enjoy the benefits for life.
There are many ways to incorporate exercise into daily life. Here are some suggestions:
• Use the stairs instead of the lift.
• Walk more by going to the restroom on the floor above you and take the stairs.
• Park a little further from your office so you can walk more.
• Go offline and deliver documents to colleagues by hand instead of by email.
• Walk instead of driving when going out for lunch.
• Use the stairs instead of the lift if you live in an apartment complex.
• Carry your laundry basket up and down the stairs.
• March in place whenever you're stuck with doing chores such as washing the dishes or doing the laundry.
• Do some jumping jacks while watching television.
• Turn on some music and dance!
• Walk up and down the stairs as a form of exercise.
• Use the restroom on a different level, or at the other end of your building.
• Earn brownie points while building strong bones by helping your teachers carry their things.
• Walk around the school instead of sitting around while waiting for the first bell to ring.
This article was contributed by the Osteoporosis Awareness Society of Kuala Lumpur as part of its Healthy Bone For Life programme and supported by educational grants from Fonterra Brands (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd and Rottapharm Madaus.
Oh, my brittle bones
Bones may be tough, but that doesn’t mean they’re invincible.
WHY is grandma hunched over, mum?” a little girl asks her mother one day. “That’s what happens when you become old, dear,” the mother explains. The little girl nods and accepts the fact that one day she too will become like her grandmother.
Between husband and wife. “Drink milk so you don’t get osteoporosis,” a wife advises her husband. “Don’t worry about me. Osteoporosis only happens to women,” the husband replies.
A young girl sees a billboard of an osteoporosis campaign. She ignores it. “Osteoporosis is an old person’s disease. I don’t need to worry about that now,” she tells herself.
If you cannot find anything wrong in these scenarios, then you are suffering from the usual misconceptions about osteoporosis. All of the opinions expressed by the grandmother, husband, and girl are incorrect.
Osteoporosis is not just a disease of the elderly. Neither is getting the dowager’s hump a natural part of ageing. And even though women are three times more likely to suffer from osteoporosis, men also need to be careful. In fact, the problem with osteoporosis is that people become aware of it only when it is too late.
So what is osteoporosis?
According to Dato Dr Lee Joon Kiong, president of the Osteoporosis Awareness Society of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor (OASKLS), osteoporosis is a bone degenerative disease that dramatically increases your risk of fracture. Literally meaning porous bone, it is often only diagnosed after a break or fracture.
“Many people think that bone is just a chunk of calcium. Bone is actually living tissue. It is constantly breaking down and rebuilding itself in a process called bone remodeling,” he says.
“The two types of cells involved in this process are osteoclasts (which break down the bone) and osteoblasts, (responsible for building the bone matrix and mineralising it). This removal and replacement process ensures that our bones are repaired from micro-damage resulting from everyday stress and also helps shape and sculpt the bone during growth,” Dato Dr Lee explains.
He adds: “As we grow older, we are no longer able to replace bone as quickly as we lose it. When bone resorption (breaking down) occurs faster than bone formation (building up) over a long period of time, our bones become fragile and osteoporosis occurs.”
According to Dato Dr Lee, there are several factors that can put you at a higher risk of osteoporosis. “If you have low bone mineral density (BMD), then your risk of a fracture significantly increases. For women, your risk of osteoporosis goes up after menopause. Other risk factors include family history, age, poor nutrition intake, smoking, alcohol consumption, and eating disorders.”
Dato Dr Lee says there is no need to panic even if you find yourself at risk. As long as you take preventative steps by eating right and getting enough exercise, you can lower your risk of osteoporosis. Don’t wait until a fracture happens because it will be too late then.
He explains: “The first thing to do is make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D every day. Calcium is an important mineral for bone formation while vitamin D improves calcium absorption. And yes, milk is a good source of calcium, but you can also get it from soy foods, anchovies, tempeh, seafoods, and some types of vegetables.
“As for vitamin D, your body will automatically produce it through exposure to the sun. Some foods such as oily fish, margarine, and fortified cereals may also contain vitamin D,” he advises.
“Don’t forget to work your bones too!” he adds. “Weight-bearing exercises work best for preventing osteoporosis. The force placed on bones will stimulate the bone building process and actually strengthen the bone.
“There are a variety of weight-bearing exercises you can choose from, like walking, jogging, dancing, and step aerobics. You can also play tennis, basketball, baseball, golf, or any other sport. Mind you, swimming does not put force on your bones and is therefore not considered a weight-bearing exercise. Work you bones regularly and diligently.”
No matter what age you are, you can make a difference by taking charge of your bones now. You can never start too early because good bone care starts from childhood and continues well into the golden years. So mind your bones, and protect yourself from osteoporosis.
In conjunction with World Osteoporosis Day Carnival, OASKL has released the Healthy Bone For Life Family Guidebook with the tagline “Osteoporosis prevention begins today”. The book covers information about bones, nutrition, exercise, fall prevention, and osteoporosis treatment. Get your free copy when you make a donation of RM10 or more to OASKL. Cheques are to be made payable to Osteoporosis Awareness Society of Kuala Lumpur.
This article is contributed by Osteoporosis Awareness Society of Kuala Lumpur (OASKL) as part of its Healthy Bone for Life programme.
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