Here are some facts: 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men over 50yrs, will sustain an osteoporotic fracture.
So, if you’re in that age bracket, your odds are not great. Your best bet is doing what you can to prevent the fracture in the first place, which means investing in your bone strength.
Bone strength is a little like superannuation – the more you deposit early, the less of an impact taking cash out will have later in life.
Our pubescent years are extremely important to developing bone density, with 25-30% of our total adult bone mass gained through this period. Increasing our bone mass by just 10% as children, reduces the risk of an osteoporotic fracture during adult life by 50%.
So, if you have children in your life who are in their pubescent years, make sure they keep up their sport and activity that includes impact loading through the upper body (racket sports, handstands, cartwheels) and lower body (basketball, netball, footy, jumping out of trees). And it’s absolutely fine that they cartwheel inside, outside, and basically as a mode of transport everywhere they go!
As we age it does get harder to build bone mass, but life is not meant to be easy and so we do have to increase our investment as we age.
The three most common fracture sites are the spine (mid-thoracic vertebral bodies), the hip, which is the most devastating in terms of mobility and mortality, and the wrist.
Wrist fractures are often the first sign of osteoporosis due to it being a silent disease. After the first fracture the risk of a second fracture more than doubles. A fall from standing height that causes a fracture, even in seniors, is not normal so ensure you seek further medical advice regarding bone health and what you can do to prevent further fractures.
Weight bearing exercise, strong muscles and impact loading throughout all stages of life is vital for bone health. Bigger muscles means bigger bones, so staying strong is vital. As we age balance is also an important factor to reduce falls risk and therefore fractures.
Although osteoporosis is commonly thought of as a women’s disease due to the significant hormonal change that happens during menopause, men are also at risk. This risk increases with lifestyle behaviours, diseases, and some medications, so it is also important for men to focus on their bone health throughout life.
So, what can we do about it?
For those with low bone density (osteoporosis/osteopenia), the goal is to minimise the risk of a fracture through:
- building/preserving bone and muscle strength
- reducing fall risk
- optimising posture to offload susceptible bones
However, prevention is better than a cure, so an additional overarching goal is to ideally prevent osteoporosis occurring in the first place.
The Pilates method and its many varied movements offers one form of exercise to assist with bone health. This could be through offering impact loading opportunities for the upper and lower body via exercises such as handstands and jumping on the jump board, or through its multitude of strength and balance exercises.
Meet Wendy – one of our Aligned for Life clients whose osteoporosis diagnosis has been downgraded to osteopenia. Her experience is a great case study in investing in bone health!
Of course, the idea of doing a handstand or jumping repeatedly doesn’t appeal to everyone, or perhaps you’re prevented from trying by musculoskeletal pain or a high fracture risk. That’s not a problem, because when working in a fully equipped Pilates studio, your qualified instructor will be able to create a personalised program for you to start with, and then make sure you continue to progress and challenge your strength, balance, and skeletal system, to support a healthy active lifestyle.
So, it is never too late to start having an impact on bone strength and investing in your quality of life.