Never too late to get in shape to avoid fractures

Pamela Cowan, Regina Leader-Post 3 minute read January 7, 2020

Peggy Forsberg (shown) and Shanthi Johnson, a professor at the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies at the U of R, will be holding an osteoporosis forum -- Too Fit to Fall or Fracture -- this Sunday afternoon at Wascana Rehabilitation Centre. BRYAN SCHLOSSER / Regina Leader-Post

Sitting is hazardous to your bone health, says Peggy Forsberg.

“Sitting is really the new smoking,” said Forsberg, an Osteoporosis Canada Bone Fit instructor and Regina physiotherapist.

She said Osteoporosis Canada equates the health hazards of skipping 20 minutes of daily exercise to smoking three cigarettes.

Osteoporosis occurs when the bones become thin and porous. While the disease is more common among older individuals, it can affect people of all ages.

“Aging is one of the factors in losing bone mineral density,” Forsberg says. “Other things that will affect losing bone mass are certain medications, smoking and alcohol.”

When bones are severely weakened by osteoporosis, a fall or minor trauma can lead to fracture — breaks or cracks in the bone. But it is possible to prevent, delay or reduce bone loss.

Forsberg and Shanthi Johnson, a professor at the University of Regina’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies, will discuss options at an osteoporosis forum, Too Fit to Fall or Fracture, to be held Sunday at 1:30 p.m. in the auditorium at the Wascana Rehabilitation Centre.

The cost to attend the forum is $5. For more information, contact the Regina Osteoporosis Canada office at 306-757-2663.

“The term fit or fitness often scares people and conjures up images of being athletic,” said Johnson, an internationally recognized researcher of health promotion and fall prevention among seniors. “I want people to think about fitness as our ability to do things we want to do well and we need to enable our muscles and bones to help us do just that.

“As we get older, supporting our muscles and bones through appropriate exercises becomes extremely important.”

Preventing falls is important — particularly if you have osteoporosis.

“Twenty per cent of people who fall and break a hip will actually die from it,” Forsberg said. “Of the survivors, 50 per cent will have some sort of disability after. Instead of walking independently, they may be walking with a walker or cane afterwards or they might need assistance getting dressed.”

Forsberg says weight-bearing exercises are tops for bone development and maintenance and should be done three to five times a week.

She suggests doing strength and balance training two to three times per week and practising proper posture daily.

Exercise, eating right and having sufficient calcium and Vitamin D are also key to good bone health.

Bone loss occurs without symptoms.

“Often it is silent until the first fracture,” Forsberg said. “When people are just standing on the ground, fall down and have a fracture, that’s not right. We’re made to bounce, not break.”

Determining if you have osteoporosis requires a bone mineral density test — but height loss can be a clue.

“Sometimes it can be poor posture, but when people actually start losing height, then you have to start thinking about the silent fractures that start to happen,” Forsberg said.

A bone mineral density test could be warranted if you are 65 or older, break a bone as a result of a minor accident, have unexplained back pain or are going through early menopause, Forsberg said.

Women’s bone mass loss starts to escalate after menopause.

Osteoporosis is found in one in four women over 50, whereas one in eight men over 50 have the disease.

The best time to build bone and “put it in the bank” is up to age 16 for women and 20 for men.

“That’s the time to get out and get exercising and not just sit and play video games and eat chips,” she said.