Training x-rays of hands

Published on April 6th, 2013 | by Joe Starks

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Physical Fitness Types: Bone integrity

We tend to think of bone density problems as something only middle aged and elderly women get. Yet it has been estimated that by the year 2025 the number of hip fractures caused by osteoporosis alone will have doubled. The percentage in increase will be higher in men than women. We can’t hide behind the excuse that it is an incurable degenerative disease and that old age is natural. Osteoporosis is preventable and even sufferers can improve their quality of life through the correct exercise programs.

What are Bone Density and Osteoporosis?

Bone density is pretty much what it sounds like: It means how dense your bones are. Bones accumulate Calcium together with other minerals inside them, making the bone stronger. This Calcium though can and will be removed by the body if it has an increased need for calcium and an intake that is too small. So people who do not ingest enough calcium and vitamin D will slowly use up the calcium in their bones, making them fragile.

When the density of the bone reaches a critically low point then we call this Osteoporosis (Meaning porous bones in Greek). The bone then looks like a porous sponge when looked at through x-rays. Fragile bones like that will break easily and often the breaks are in spots that are tricky to heal, like the hip bone fractures for instance.

Osteoporosis is more common in elderly women than younger women or men, but that does not mean it is non-existent in these other groups. In the contrary every human being can get osteoporosis if the intake of calcium is too low. Anorexic women or women who have diets imbalanced when it comes to calcium and vitamin D will get osteoporosis at any age. The same goes for men.

What can we do about it?

The answer is simple: Bone integrity training and an improvement in diet.

When it comes to the diet to prevent osteoporosis three things are important:

  • Consume enough Calcium. Calcium is plentiful in dairy, dark leafy greens and other foods including some nuts, grains and fish.
  • Consume enough vitamin D. Without vitamin D you can’t absorb Phosphorus and Calcium from your intestine into your bloodstream.
  • Eat the correct balance of Phosphorus and Calcium. If you eat too much Phosphorus (up to twice as much as Calcium) then the body won’t absorb Calcium as well and it will release more Calcium from the bones.

Now to the fitness part: Any time you do a movement that has a certain degree of impact on the bone; this bone will try to increase its density in fear of getting broken in the future. Impact does not mean beating a spot or causing pain to you, it is simply any type of exercise that caused a gentle shock to your bones. Running for instance has a high impact on the legs, because as you run small shocks go through the bone every time your foot lands on the ground.

Most exercises don’t have a lot of impact on the bones because we try to train our muscles for longer. High impact training means that you first have to work out gently and raise the intensity from work out to work out.

Here’s how it works:

  • First, use dynamic movements. Tennis, rowing, running and martial arts are very good examples of dynamic workouts. Any activity where you shock your bones a little bit while you exercise is fair game.
  • Second, have a variety of exercises. Just impacting the bone statically won’t make it increase its density as the body tends to adapt fairly quickly. You will have to vary the movements and the impact levels to have a maximum increase of bone density.
  • Third, you have to work out at a certain pace and level. Too low impact exercises won’t do anything for your bones. You may have to consult with your physician to find the perfect balance.
  • Fourth, if you do very high impact sessions you have to do them frequently. High impact exercises usually don’t last long and should be repeated more often than medium impact exercises that usually take up more time. For instance, a one minute burst of jumping jacks needs to be repeated more often during the week than an intense 20 minute basketball game.
  • Fifth, it takes four to six months for the bone to truly adapt to the program. The program must last at least as long. The best is to find a routine you can keep up for the rest of your life.

Conclusion

Bone density problems are steadily increasing in our society. Exercising is one of the best non-drug related treatment and prevention methods we know of. The earlier you start training, the higher your chances of avoiding Osteoporosis altogether will be.

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