Take osteoporosis, for example. It’s a disease where you lose bone mineral density. Essentially, bones become porous and weak, making them more susceptible to fractures. Bones are designed to be dense and strong; after all, support and movement of our body are two of the skeleton’s main functions. (1)
So, what image comes to mind when you think of osteoporosis? Let me guess: a frail, little, old lady, hunched over when walking, with a pronounced dowager’s hump. You’re not the only one; many individuals visualize that same image. But that’s only part of the story. According to Osteoporosis Canada, 33% of women and 20% of men will fall victim to fractures from osteoporosis. And if you’re over 50 and you fracture a bone, it’s caused by osteoporosis more than 80% of the time. Here are some more facts about this disease:
- The most common sites of osteoporotic fracture are the wrist, spine, shoulder and hip.
- No single cause for osteoporosis has been identified.
- Osteoporosis can strike at any age.
- Osteoporosis affects both men and women.
- Osteoporosis is often called the ‘silent thief’ because bone loss occurs without symptoms unless one has fractured.
- Osteoporosis can result in disfigurement, lowered self-esteem, reduction or loss of mobility, and decreased independence.
- Osteoporosis has been called a paediatric disease with geriatric consequences.
- Building strong bones during childhood and adolescence can be the best defence against developing osteoporosis later.
- Peak bone mass is achieved at an early age, age 16-20 in girls and age 20-25 in young men.
- Women and men alike begin to lose bone in their mid-30s; as they approach menopause, women lose bone at a greater rate, from 2-3 per cent per year.
- Risk factors include age, sex, vertebral compression fracture, fragility fracture after age 40, either parent has had a hip fracture, >3 months use of glucocorticoid drugs, medical conditions that inhibit absorption of nutrients and other medical conditions or medications that contribute to bone loss.
- Loss of 2cm (3/4″) as measured by one’s healthcare provider or 6cm (2 1/2″) overall from when one was younger may be an indicator of spinal fracture. (2)
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, the most common fracture is in the upper spine - thoracic region. That’s the source of the hunched over appearance of many people living with osteoporosis. (3) But it doesn’t have to be - resistance exercises where you challenge the muscles and load the bones can increase your strength, improve bone density, and reduce the risk of fractures. (4, 5, 6) Hongo et al (2007) conducted a randomized controlled study on women with osteoporosis; their results demonstrated that “low impact back exercises in women with osteoporosis increased their back strength, thereby reducing their risk of vertebral fractures.” (6)
How Essentrics Can Help
So, I bet you’re wondering how Essentrics can help. When you strengthen your muscles, it results in a corresponding strengthening of the attached bones. And since we work all 600+ muscles during an Essentrics workout, you’re guaranteed to strengthen every bone as well. Given the non-impact nature of Essentrics, there’s no risk of fracturing a compromised bone if you have osteoporosis. We also work balance and posture - 2 key goals of exercise for people with osteoporosis.
Let’s take the most common fracture for people with osteoporosis - fractures to the thoracic region. Think upper back, rib cage area between your shoulder blades. There are many layers of muscles that attach to the thoracic ribs, but 2 key muscles to work are the trapezius and the rhomboids.
Here’s an explanation of the muscles of the back, how they impact posture, and how we work the trapezius and rhomboids in Essentrics:
The Essentrics Shoulder Blast Trademark sequence improves posture and strengthens all of these muscles. Here’s what it looks like in action:
Essentrics is a style of bodyweight training, and as such, can be considered resistance exercise. “Weight-bearing exercise and resistance exercise are particularly important for improving bone density and helping to prevent osteoporosis.” (7) So, whether you’ve already been diagnosed with osteoporosis or you’re trying to prevent it, consider adding Essentrics to your daily routine to improve bone density and prevent future fractures.
Amanda Sterczyk is an international author, Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM), an Exercise is Medicine Canada (EIMC) Fitness Professional, and a Certified Essentrics® Instructor.