Like it or not, aging is a part of life, and with aging come many challenges that negatively affect one’s health and fitness. One such ailment that has affected over 10 million Americans is Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by decreased bone mass and the loss of bone tissue. The name literally means, “porous bones,” or “holes in bones.” That doesn’t sound too nice now, does it?
Osteoporosis is characterized by the progressive thinning of the bones in your body. This results in weak brittle bones, which is extremely susceptible to fracture. Sufferers of osteoporosis commonly see such fractures in the hip and spine. Injuries in these regions of the body greatly affect their health and fitness level. Osteoporosis-related injuries can often last for long periods of time, sometimes resulting in hospitalization.
Though 10 million Americans currently have Osteoporosis, studies show that an additional 34 million people suffer from low bone mass and thus likely to develop the condition as they grow older (according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation). These same studies assert that the cost of osteoporosis-related fractures will amount to $25 billion by 2025. A common misconception is that Osteoporosis is a condition that only affects the health and fitness of elderly people. While it is true that the symptoms of this disease often don’t manifest themselves in people under the age of 50, the condition often begins much earlier.
What causes this common, painful and debilitating condition? Like every other part of your body, bones are living tissue, consisting of cells. These cells both build and break down bone. Think of it this way, bones are perpetually in the process of remodeling. This process takes place within what is called the extracellular matrix. The composition of this matrix determines the strength of one’s bones. By about the age of 30, bone reaches its peak in strength and density. From this point, bone strength and density gradually decrease, sometimes to dangerous levels, as in the case of osteoporosis.
Though the gradually weakening of one’s bones is inevitable, there are ways to prevent the more damaging consequences osteoporosis. One central ingredient in the prevention of osteoporosis is making the commitment to enhance your level of health and fitness. Studies show that fitness exercises that force you to work against gravity are very beneficial in slowing bone loss. When one engages in strength training, force is applied to the bone. This creates the necessary stimulus for new bone formation. In other words, regular exercise not only increases muscle health and fitness levels, but it also increases bone mass!
What kind of fitness exercises are we talking about here? Strength training refers to resistance creating exercises such as the use of dumbbells, rubber tubing, kettlebells or the various machines available at health and fitness centers. To determine the best fitness routine for you, it is best to consult a personal trainer. He or she will guide you towards what exercises will be best effective for your body type and life situation.
Building strong bones through physical fitness is perhaps the best defense against the development of osteoporosis. Whatever your age, it is never too late to make an investment in your health and fitness. In making a small investment of your time and energy today, you will be making an important step in preventing a physically debilitating condition in the future and look forward to a longer healthier life!