Biokineticist, Wendy Vermaak, explains why higher effort in certain exercises increases bone health.
Our bones form the framework for our bodies. They keep us upright, and strong in order to be able to move. It’s the complex movement patterns; a culmination of muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones that push and pull together for dancing, playing in the park, and elite sports that describes poetry in motion.
If bones are to be the rigid framework from which our muscles and soft tissue are formed around, then they need to be strong to sustain the wear and tear of movement, and bearing the weight of the body.
Ageing, genetics, medication, disease and lifestyle habits play a role in your bone density and strength. Conditions such as osteopenia (low bone mineral density) and osteoporosis (where the density is so low that the bones have weakened and are likely more able to fracture) can occur as you age, or if you undergo certain cancer treatment. There is hope though, as physical activity, correct diet, medication, hormone replacement and correct supplements may diminish bone degeneration or even improve the bone’s condition.
Since muscles, ligaments and tendons pull and lever on the bones to produce movement, the positive stress of this encourages the bone to hold onto its calcium and mineral deposits to keep density and strength. Better still, weight-bearing activity where the extra positive stress of gravity and load exerting on the bones enforces even more bone density, load capability and strength.
Exercises to consider
For bone density and strength, the exercise would be weight-bearing aerobic exercises. For example, walking for 30 mins at a moderate pace daily.
Resistance exercise (using weights, exercise bands or machines) where there is increased load on the bones and muscles increase strength and stamina.
The intensities of these chosen activities would need to be higher than what is required for normal daily functioning. For instance, a brisk aerobic walk as opposed to a saunter. The load of resistance exercise should be a little heavier than what would be done for usual household chores. Activities performed within the usual taxing capacity of general activities of daily living still slow down the progression of this condition, however, better bone health is gained with higher effort.
Preventing vs treating
We all know the catch phrase Prevention is better than cure. Well this is never more true than when considering that preventing a fall, which leads to injury, or fracture, is better than treating an injury or fracture from a fall.
The best way to prevent a fall is to work on your balance. There are exercises you can practice that take just a few minutes a day and can reap big effects on reducing your risk of a fall, improving gait (walking capacity), posture, and have better movement control whether for activities of daily living, chores, recreational exercise or sports.
Balance exercise takes practice. Practice trying to balance on one leg for 20 counts. Start off by holding onto a steady chair or table. As you improve over time, try to reduce your time holding on to support.
Multi-component exercises, which are a combination of progressing strength, cardiovascular, and balance exercise, increase the challenge and therefore the effects on bone health are considered the most effective treatment for improved bone health. This would, however, best be prescribed for each individual and monitored by a biokineticist.
Why a biokineticist?
A biokineticist is a clinical exercise specialist who uses exercise as a modality for treatment that is evidence-based and provides scientifically-based exercise prescription for each individual. They assess muscle strength, range of motion, balance, gait, cardiopulmonary function and evaluate comorbidities, bone density, and history of previous fractures, as well as the risk of falling, and then prescribe accordingly.
MEET THE EXPERT – Wendy Vermaak
Wendy Vermaak is a biokineticist in private practice in Johannesburg, Gauteng. She has a keen interest in falls prevention and balance rehabilitation, and is also the marketing director for Biokinetics Association of South Africa (BASA).