Monday, July 11, 2011

Treasure Your Bones!

The biggest motivator for women who finally decide to begin exercising and join our program is weight loss.   Some have always struggled with their weight but we see alot of women who have not had trouble managing  their weight......until the big "M" and  hormonal chaos.  Some stick with it either because they begin to actually like exercise and/or  because they like what exercise does for them, while others never make the commitment and eventually drop off.  I always wonder if there was more I could have done to help motivate
the ones who don't last and just hope they are exercising somewhere else.  People who exercise on their own are rarely successful in maintaining a proper and balanced fitness regimen.

While I love to help members lose weight and tone up, one of the biggest concerns I have for women my age and older is bone health.  Osteoporosis is serious.  Once you develop it, there are very few options to treat it and any that involve medications are now known to be detrimental and can actually cause more bone damage.  Once we start losing estrogen after menopause (and by the way, HRT is one way to help prevent bone loss), we are at higher risk for weakened bones, especially if we haven't exercised consistently and/or have not kept up enough nutrients like calcium, vitamin D and protein in our diet.

If one of our members happens to experience a bone fracture, I always ask them if the Dr. treating them did a bone scan, if they tested their hormone levels, if they tested their Vitamin D level, if they were supplementing with Vitamin D and calcium and then I suggest that they add more weight training.  I just don't think that we can count on our medical professionals to look out for our best interests and we need to know enough to ask the right questions and get the attention we need.  Or find another doctor who will.

One misconception that alot of people have is that walking is a form of weight-bearing exercise that will build bone density.  Walking is a fine form of mild, low impact cardio but will not treat osteoporosis or osteopenia.
We need to lift weights - heavy enough weight to flex muscles hard enough to pull on the bone they are attached to.  Just like when muscles get microscopic tears in the muscle fiber when stressed during weight training, which starts the growing process,  bones react in a similar way when lifting weights.

The only aerobic activity that will build bone is high impact (jumping, running and landing on both feet) which is not best for knees and joints.  Plus that will only work the lower skeleton.  We still need to train the upper body.  Lower body resistance training that is effective are squats, deadlifts and lunges - all with added weight.

When muscles and bones respond to the stress of weight by getting those tiny tears, our body heals and repairs those tears in the 24-48 hours afterwards, making the tissue stronger and bigger.  However, there is a big problem that I see all the time when women do not consume proper nutrients in order for the repair and rebuilding process to take place.  Because women are notorious for not eating enough protein, even when they are told how beneficial and necessary it is.  Everyone who is serious about gaining as much muscle (and bone) as possible should be supplementing with whey protein, even if they think they are eating enough protein most days.  It makes a HUGE difference in results.

Drinking a whey shake within one hour after weight training will enhance the healing and growth process.  There is an amino acid in whey (and other dairy, but whey is the best form) called leucine, that is the main building block in protein, and is not present in animal protein.  Plus, whey has low calories.

Because heavy weight lifting (and by that I mean heavy enough weight to fatigue the working muscle in only 8-12 reps) can result in injury if not done correctly, it is not something that most people can do successfully on their own.  It is easy to take a walk, ride a bike or hop on a treadmill for cardio but weight-training takes a little know-how.  I always tell our members to make sure they get their resistance workouts done here at TUF if they can only attend a few times a week.

Another class that I think does the most good for the aging body is Pilates, because it focuses on the core (abs, back and glutes) and balance while stretching out the muscles for more flexibility.  When a person does not have a strong core, it is very difficult to maintain proper form and stabilize during execution of weight-bearing exercise.

Women need to understand that our bones are living tissue that contain nerves and blood vessels and they need nutrients and exercise to stay healthy.  No one wants to end up in a nursing home with a broken hip but even a small stress fracture can take a long time to heal and always be a constant source of discomfort.
Osteoporosis is totally preventable!!

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