Summary of health articles:
New research suggests that regular physical activity can reduce the chance of hip fractures in older women
Hip fractures are associated with reduced mobility and a number of possible complications in old age
Exercise strengthens our bones and muscles, reduces the chance of falls, and reduces the chance of a fracture occurring
Less strenuous workouts still protect aging bones
It is not uncommon for older people, who are primarily sedentary, to be somewhat apprehensive about starting an exercise routine. Their concerns may include lack of strength or endurance to exercise, or injury during exercise. The good news, however, is that increasing your physical activity is sure to have far more benefits than risks. In fact, new research shows that even less strenuous workouts can help protect aging bones.
The study, conducted at the State University of New York in Buffalo, found that, at least in older women, regular exercise appears to reduce the risk of breaking a hip. These results are based on a study that included 77,206 women between the ages of 50 and 79 when research began to look at the effects of different types of physical activity on the rate of bone fractures.
All women were recorded for an average of 14 years from the 1990s onwards. During this time, they answered questions about their lifestyle and physical activity. After analyzing the data, the researchers found that those who participated in exercise regularly were at lower risk of hip fractures than their counterparts who did not do exercises. Those who did mostly moderate to vigorous workouts had a 12 percent reduced chance of breaking a hip. However, the association persisted regardless of the intensity with which the subjects exercised or what type of activity they chose, even for those who identified most of their exercise as the result of less intense activities such as bowling, golfing, and slow dancing.
The dangers of fractures as we age
While breaking a bone at any age isn't fun, there are additional risks for seniors. And hip fractures are far more common in this age group. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, the highest number of hip fractures occur between the ages of 75 and 79, and their incidence is increasing. Hip fractures usually require several days of hospitalization. After that, hip surgery is often recommended as this helps stabilize the bone.
Healing hip fractures can take a long time and most often requires extensive rehabilitation and the use of an aid such as a walker or stick. Recovery can take weeks or months, which means that the person has limited mobility and has trouble performing everyday tasks. All of this leads to a higher risk of complications like blood clots, pressure sores, and pneumonia due to immobility.
How does exercise help us avoid fractures?
Part of the benefit of physical activity lies in its ability to strengthen our bones and help keep them dense. But after about the age of 30 we cannot add any more mass to our bones. Instead, we need to exercise from our 30s to avoid losing bone density as we age. Exercise exercises like walking and playing tennis are very helpful in keeping our bones strong, healthy, and less prone to breakage.
However, that is not the whole story. Workouts are also important because they help strengthen the muscles in the lower body, improve balance, and promote flexibility. Extra muscles in your thighs and hips provide extra padding for your hip bones in the event you accidentally fall – which in turn reduces the chance of fractures. If you feel like doing some vigorous exercise, try hiking, jogging, or fast dancing. If these are too vigorous for you, take a low-impact aerobics class, go for a walk, or use an elliptical machine. Use resistance bands or weights to focus on strengthening your muscles, and take part in Pilates, tai chi, or yoga to increase your flexibility and restore balance.