Boning Up on Exercise

October 15, 2010 in Health by Mary Ireland

When I was young, my grandparents, aunts and uncles were a great motivation for me to take care of my health. I might take a moment here to clarify that they provided a negative example -- one that I didn’t want to copy. Three of my grandparents had already passed away when I was born – cardiovascular disease had taken its toll. Most of my aunts and uncles were overweight and had a lot of health problems. I didn’t want to be like them.

My one remaining grandparent -- my grandmother -- fell and broke her hip when she was 77. I was seven. I don’t remember exactly how lucid she was before the fall, but I do remember that her mental capacities diminished considerably after. My grandmother was bedridden for the remaining 15 years that she “lived." Dementia stole her memory, personality and ability to function.

This is why I am particularly interested in research related to bone health. On my last post, Exercise Your Options, I received the following comment: Resistance Training Is an Important Part of Any Exercise Routine. Weight Management. Dr. Grandma responded, Yes, that’s true and we personally live what we believe – we’re off the the gym this morning. Our routine is to do cardio and some stretching 4 or 5 days per week and do our physical therapist-designed gym workout twice a week. I wholehearted agree with Dr. Grandma. Like most of Dr. Grandma’s recommendations, resistance/weight training works on more than one level.

A study at the University of New Mexico found that both moderate and high intensity weight training showed increases in participant bone mass. Although high intensity training provided the most benefit, the study shows that benefits also occur at moderate intensities. The findings are significant for those who do not want to train at higher intensities and those who are starting at lower levels and working their way up to higher intensities.

A study in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research (JBMR ) studied bone loss on the femoral neck -- the part of femur immediately below the ball of the hip socket. This area is the most common place for hip fractures to occur. The study found that women who were active had little or no bone loss on the femoral neck. The study found that less active and sedentary women had “significant“ reductions in bone density. In this study, increased training or exercise was associated with a 1% increase in bone density -- please note that the difference between "a significant reduction" and an actual increase is very...well... significant.

Evidence of the benefit of exercise continues to mount in a study documented in the Archives of Internal Medicine showing that an at home exercise program “may help high-risk, elderly women avoid falls that lead to hip fracture.” This study focused on the improved balance and gait of participants, including gains in leg strength. This study makes an important point – if you avoid falling, you don’t put your bones to the ultimate test of seeing how strong they are. Another important point -- mobility. In my opinion, being able to walk on your own without a walker and without the fear of falling adds significantly to the quality of life.

There is also more research related to this topic that goes to the heart (and perhaps the arteries, veins, pancreas and brains) of what Dr. Grandmas is all about. A study at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) was reported on the Bones and Joints Simplied page of Medbroadcast. The study found that women who ate 4 times as much animal protein as vegetable protein had 3 times the rate of bone loss, and 3.7 times the rate of hip fractures compared to the women who ate equal amounts of both animal and vegetable protein.

According to Dr. Deborah Sellmeyer, one of the study investigators, our bodies use our bones to help neutralize the excess acid from the animal protein. Foods with more base than acid can help neutralize the acid, and most vegetables are more basic than acidic. According to Sellmeyer, "If we don't get enough base in our diet - if we're not eating enough fruits and vegetables - our bones become involved in neutralizing the acid. Over time this leads to loss in bone mass and calcium.“

If you frequently read Dr. Grandma's blogs, you know all of the other benefits that fruits and vegetables provide. Check out Dr. Grandma's blog Lugumes Are Central to the Mediterranean-Style of Eating, for suggestions of adding beans to your diet – a great way to increase vegetable protein consumption.

Seeing how much Dr. Grandma and Dr. Grandpa contribute to the lives of their grandchildren makes me realize how much I missed in my childhood without grandparents. Following Dr. Grandma's advice and using her yummy, nutritious products will help ensure that you are around mentally and physically for the ones that you love.