Osteoporosis is irreversible once in process; therefore prevention
is essential. It is the belief of experts that bone loss prevention strategies should begin in childhood and be continued throughout the lifespan.
There are three very important factors contributing to bone health. These are hormonal,
nutritional and mechanical.
The mechanical stressing that occurs during exercise can help increase bone mass when nutritional and hormonal factors are also favorable.
For example, measurements have found that for a young adult a week-long bed rest can result in a 1 per cent loss of spinal bone density, which can take up to 4 months to regain.
Cross sectional studies have shown that strength trained athletes have a much higher bone mass density. For both premenopausal and postmenopausal women, an additive effect of exercise
and diet has been shown.
Three different approaches to preventing
osteo-porosis in postmenopausal women with low bone density have been investigated in an Australian study.
This study involved three groups of women, one group was given an exercise regime, another was given exercise plus a hormone replacement (oestrogen
and progesteroneanother), and a third exercise plus a calcium
supplementation. It was found that after two years bone loss was slowed
or prevented by exercise plus hormone replacement, or exercise plus calcium supplementation. Slowing bone loss with exercise alone was ineffective.
The level and quantity of exercise is important, as hormone levels can be interfered with by high levels of activity.
Bone density tends to be lower in female athletes, whose activity is at a level high enough to interfere with
their menstrual cycle (leading to cessation or irregularity of periods)
while women with normal (regular) menstruation will have higher bone density, despite lower levels of physical activity.
Evidence found in two studies suggest that, even after the resumption of regular menstruation, bone mass in such women does not return to normal.
It has been reported by three studies that male runners tend to have lower vertebral bone mass density.
This could be related to reduced levels of reproductive hormones sometimes found in
male endurance athletes.
Exercise can still be beneficial, as long as it is kept to levels that do not adversely affect reproductive hormone levels, and adequate calcium is being consumed.
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