Move it or lose it

02/10/2015 17:28

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.

Working out
There are many ways to incorporate exercise into daily life. Here are some suggestions:

At work
• 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.

At home
• 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.

At school
• 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.