Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease of low bone mass that increases the risk of fracture. Currently, 10 million Americans suffer from osteoporosis.
2. Who is at risk for Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a major public health threat for 28 million Americans, 80 percent of whom are women. One out of every two women, and one in eight men over the age of 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.
3. What are the risk factors for developing Osteoporosis?
Risk factors for osteoporosis fall into two categories – risk factors that cannot be changed, and risk factors that can be changed.
Risk factors that cannot be changed include:
- Gender – Women are at higher risk than men. This is because women have less bone tissue and lose bone more rapidly than men because of the changes involved in menopause.
- Age – The older you are, the greater your risk for osteoporosis. Your bones become less dense and weaker as you age. Body Size – Small, thin-boned women are at the greatest risk.
- Ethnicity – Caucasian and Asian women are at the highest risk. African American and Latino women have a lower, but significant, risk.
- Family History – People whose parents have a history of fractures also seem to have reduced bone mass and may be at a higher risk for fractures. Peak Bone
- Mass – The amount of bone mass you had at the end of growth as you entered adulthood is an important determinant of fracture risk. People who entered adulthood with low
- peak bone mass are at higher risk for fracture.
Risk Factors that can be changed include:
- Hormone Deficiency – This may include low estrogen levels in women due to menopause, or low levels of testosterone in men.
- Physical Inactivity – An inactive lifestyle or prolonged bed rest increases you risk for osteoporosis.
- Diet – A lifetime diet low in calcium and vitamin D.
- Cigarette Smoking
- Excessive Alcohol Use
- Medications – This includes corticosteroids and some anticonvulsants.
4. What can I do to prevent Osteoporosis?
Regular participation in weight-bearing activity has been found to strengthen bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis; while reduced physical activity or prolonged bed rest result in bone loss. In order for physical activity to reduce fracture risk, it must:
- Include weight-bearing activity, and must continue over the lifespan of the person
- Encourage the development of muscle strength and power
- Subject the skeleton to forces that exceed those of regular daily activities (for example, impact activities that have a short duration)
- Promote dynamic balance in order to reduce falls in the older adult
The Better Bones & Balance program has been designed specifically to include all of the above. Regular participation in this program has been proven to reduce the risk for osteoporosis and falling.
5. Do I need a weighted vest to start the program?
NO. We recommend that you begin the program with no weight for the first 2-4 weeks. After that time, a weighted vest will enhance your progress.
6. Do I need a weighted vest at all to benefit from the program?
NO. You will gain strength and muscle endurance by increasing the number of sets and repetitions as you move from beginner to intermediate and finally to advanced levels. We have included progressions for those who have a weighted vest and those who do not have a weighted vest.
7. Where do I purchase a weighted vest?
There are many weighted vest vendors. One we use is Gaiam, Inc, a fitness product distributer that currently sells vests and weights beginning at $50.00 plus shipping and handling. These can be purchased from their website http://www.gaiam.com. Follow the links to walking and then “view all.” The vests come in multiple sizes, have weights that load on the outside rather than the inside and are washable. Weights are easy to manage and load 2-3 in each pocket and can be distributed evenly around the torso. Pockets snap at the top to hold weights in place.
8. Do I need an exercise step to start the program?
NO. The step will make the stretches easier to perform and also will help “overload” your muscles and bones during the stepping exercise. However, to begin, you can step in place or use a step or stool in your own home. But make sure your stool is very stable as you step up and down. These stepping exercises are important in the program because they are similar to what you do in your daily activities, and will improve your ability to climb up and down stairs.
10. Can I exercise along with the program if I have osteoporosis?
YES. But if you have a recent fracture, you should check with your doctor.
11. Should I jump if I have osteoporosis in my hips?
Three women who began our program in 1994 had osteoporosis in their hips (as measured from a bone scan). Six years later, two of them have improved BMD (bone mineral density) and no longer have osteoporosis. The other has not lost BMD and thus has halted bone loss at her hip. Jumping, as defined in this program, is a safe activity for women with osteoporosis. However, you should not jump until you have been performing resistance exercises for at least 3 months or if your doctor tells you it is safe.
12. Why is jumping part of this program?
Jumping is included in this program because there is convincing evidence that it loads the hips in such a way that they respond by building or maintaining bone mineral density. Athletes, such as gymnasts, have BMD values that are over 35% higher than average. This is largely because they land on both feet quickly with very high forces. The jumps in Better Bones & Balance are similar to those from gymnastics in the “style” of landing, but are safe because the forces at the ground are much lower than those experienced by a gymnast.
13. When should I start jumping?
After at least 3 months of participation in the program. After this time, the strength and stability in your hip, knee and ankle joints should be sufficient to allow jumps without pain or risk of injury.
14. What if I experience knee pain?
If you experience knee pain while performing the exercises, take a few days off, and then start again with less weight in the vest. Also, for the squats and lunges, bending less will reduce knee pain. If you experience knee pain while jumping, perform the “faux”, or false, jumps instead.
15. Can I exercise in this program if I have osteoarthritis in my knees?
YES. Women in our research program had arthritis, one of them an advanced case. They found that the strength and muscle mass they gained in their hips, legs, and ankles helped stabilize and support their joints, their arthritis pain actually decreased , and they were able to participate in more activities. If you have arthritis, you should check with your doctor first and not jump if it causes you significant pain.
16. Is this program for men too?
YES. Men get osteoporosis too, and its prevalence in men is increasing. Have your husband or partner exercise along with you. It’s a great way to keep motivated and stick with the program.
17. What should I do if I go on vacation?
You can take a break or continue your program by doing the exercises wherever you are.
18. What if I only have time for exercise one or two times per week?
Exercising one time a week is better than none. There is evidence-based research that weight training once a week provides benefits. However, for maximum gains, you should try to perform the program 2-3 times per week and cut back after you achieved noticeable gains. Cutting back will maintain the gains you’ve achieved. If you stop the program, you will lose your hard work!
19. At what level (beginner, intermediate, or advanced) should I start the program?
We suggest that everyone start this program at the beginner level. In general, beginners are those who are starting a new exercise program. Even if you walk or do aerobics on a regular basis, you should begin at the beginner level since this program is very different from walking or aerobics. Women in our research were very active, but not strong, and this program is designed to increase strength, power, and bone density. If you have been active in the past, but have not been involved in any regular exercise in the past month, you should start as a beginner. Intermediates are those who have been engaged in a regular program of weight training (3 times per week) that includes lower body exercise, using weight machines, for at least 6 months. Advanced are those who have been engaged in a regular program of “high intensity” weight training that includes lower body exercises, using free weights and weight machines, for at least 6 months. High intensity is defined as lifting weight at 85% of your maximum.