Sandy Palais, 73, of Arizona started lifting weights about 10 years ago after she was diagnosed with osteoporosis. She started weight training to build bone mass. But she built muscle mass as well.
I was planning on posting some fantastic new recipes today, but you'll have to wait a bit longer. Sorry. I got side-tracked!
I've Got Bones, Backs, & Strength-Training on My Brain Today! Here's Why:
- Vertebral Fractures. Jane Brody, the long-time New York Times health writer, published a much-needed piece about spinal (aka vertebral) fractures yesterday. This is a subject that's close to my heart--both my mother & aunt experienced them--setting them off on that slow downward disability spiral. Unfortunately, these too-common fractures are often the first sign of osteoporosis and they often go undiagnosed. Read, Along the Spine, Women Buckle at Breaking Points, July 27, 2011.
- Forget the Crunch, but Follow This Back-Saving Advice. Brody also provided some excellent tips on how to protect & strengthen our backs as we go about our day-to-day activities. I found out I'm doing a lot of things wrong! Like the way I carry groceries, & standing on my tip-toes, reaching with one hand to get things off my kitchen's top shelves. Brody's easy-to-follow advice also appeared in yesterday's New York Times. Check out, "Forget About Crunches. Here's How to Protect Your Back", which is based on guidelines that appeared in, "The Health Professional's Guide to Rehabilitation of the Patient with Osteoporosis," Osteoporosis International 14(Suppl 2):S1-22, 2003.
- Meet Sandy Palais, My Inspiration. Two weeks ago, while I was stair-climbing on a Mediterranean cruise ship, I heard the inspiring story of 73-year old Sandy Palais via an NPR podcast, "Seniors Can Still Bulk Up on Muscle By Pressing Iron". If Sandy's experience doesn't inspire you--I don't know what will! After listening to her story, I promised myself I'd figure out a way to make sure I fit in 2-3 serious weight-training sessions every week. Sandy Palais story highlights the recent research of Dr. Mark Peterson of the University of Michigan. He recently published a review & commentary on the importance of weight-training for the over-50 year old set. According to Peterson, If you want to remain active, strong, & mobile as you age--weight-training is a must. Peterson, M. "Resistance Training for the Aging Adult: Clinical Implications & Prescriptive Guidelines" American Journal of Medicine 2011 Mar;124(3):194-8.
- My Brand-New Weight-Training Program Begins Mid-July. This morning I finalized my plan to take my weight-training to the next level. No more of my 1 or 2 times a week at the gym--doing that same-old-same-old machine & a few free weights routine--if I can fit it in. I'm getting serious, baby.
I'm ditching the gym weight work-out, for a time-saving one at home. Next week, Beth, an accredited weight-trainer who I really trust, is stopping by my house to see the modest assortment of free weights, barbells, & equipment that my husband has collected in our basement. Then she's going to design an hour-long program that I can do 2-3 times a week at home--focusing on compound moves, core strength, and that biggie, back strength. Here's a motivator: Beth works with a 76 year-old woman who now astounds her doctor with her strength & vitality. I'll be working out on my own--in my own home. Beth knows that I don't need a trainer at my side to motivate me--I just need someone to design a program. Then in 6-8 weeks, when I start to plateau, and my muscles need a new challenge, she'll switch it up for me. The cost? $75 for the two visits, to get me started out on a program. I think it's worth it.
- About a year ago, I asked Dr. Angelo Licata, an expert in osteoporosis, what he'd advise to maintain & strengthen the spine. Don't quote this--I'm going from memory here, but, as I recall he said estrogen will only help maintain spinal bone density--it won't increase it. And only exercises that specifically target the back will help strengthen the spine and increase bone density--and most people don't bother with these. BTW, Licata is the doc behind the study that discovered vitamin D, when taken with your largest meal, increases absorption significantly. That's how I take it.
I've Got Some Good Reasons to Be Concerned About My Bones
I've got plenty of risk factors: small-boned, caucasian, 117 pounds, age 61, with a family history of severe osteoporosis. I don't take, nor want to take bisphosphonates. I do take a low dose of bio-identical estrogen. From my very first bone density scan, I fell right into that "questionable & controversial osteopenic" category. The good news is that somehow I've been managed to "pretty much" maintain the density I've had over the past 10 years--lost a titch--but nothing that's considered "statistically significant".
My osteoporosis bone genes look bad. Lots of vertebral fractures in our family--my mom & her sisters. But is it more about lifestyle than genetics? What do you think?
- My mom was tiny & small-boned--4 foot, 11 1/2 inches at her tallest.
- She never exercised--and certainly never weight-trained.
- Little vitamin D or calcium. With her very fair skin she always avoided the sun, missing out on vitamin D--and foods rich in calcium rarely passed my mom's lips.
- A diet high in animal protein & grains that upsets acid balance. Mom's diet was high in white bread, high-fat meats like brisket, pastrami & hot dogs--M & M's, Hershey's milk chocolate, & pastries.
- Little vitamin K or plant-based calcium. Mom's vegetable of choice was iceberg lettuce.
- And now the latest research hints at a connection between skin & bones. Seems that what's good for the skin, is good for the bones. It's looking like early wrinkles are associated with low bone density. It's all very preliminary (don't run to the mirror), but it's interesting to me, because my sun-avoiding non-smoking mom was definitely an "early wrinkler". Learn more about that story here!
- In her seventies she suffered falls, painful vertebral fractures--and a devastating wrist fracture. Her doctor said her bones were like dust--and I better pay attention to my bone health.
She had that Bad Bone-Breaking-Trifecta: Loss of muscle, loss of strength, and loss of balance. Unfortunately, she came "of age" before the medical community paid much attention to preventing this Trifecta.
Jane Brody & the Story Behind "The Achey Breaky Back" - The Vertebral Fractures of Aging
This is a story that's worth reading. Vertebral fractures. They're common, they're painful, they're hard-to-diagnose, and as we get older they can set us up for some serious slow sliding into disability. Click here to read the full article.
"An 80-year-old friend was lifting a corner of the mattress while making her bed when, as she put it, “I broke my back.”
In fact, she suffered a vertebral fracture — a compression, or crushing, of the front of a vertebra, one of the 33 bones that form the spinal column. This injury is very common, affecting a quarter of postmenopausal women and accounting for half of the 1.5 million fractures due to bone loss that occur each year in the United States.
By age 80, two in every five women have had one or more vertebral compression fractures. They often result in chronic back pain and impair the ability to function and enjoy life. They are one reason so many people shrink in height as they age.
But while vertebral fractures are a telltale sign of bone loss among women over age 50 and men over age 60, most who suffer them are unaware of the problem and receive no treatment to prevent future fractures in vertebrae, hips or wrists, the bones most likely to break under minor stress when weakened.
Yet, if a vertebral fracture is diagnosed and properly treated, the risk of future fractures, including hip fractures, is reduced by half or more, studies have shown.
“Most vertebral fractures do not come to medical attention at the time of their occurrence,” Dr. Kristine E. Ensrud and Dr. John T. Schousboe wrote recently in The New England Journal of Medicine. One reason is that the pain may be minimal at first or, if more severe, attributed to a strain that subsides over a few weeks.
Indeed, patients or their physicians are made aware of these fractures in just one-fourth to one-third of the instances in which they are discovered on X-rays, according to the doctors. Read more here.
Jane Brody - Ditch the Crunch - Protect Your Back - Advice from the National Osteoporosis Foundation
Read the complete story here.
"If you have not suffered a vertebral fracture, adopting an exercise routine that improves posture and strengthens back muscles can go a long way toward preventing one. And if you are already plagued by back pain due to vertebral fractures, the exercises and protective movements described below may bring relief and prevent the problem from getting worse.
These guidelines and exercises have been adapted primarily from recommendations published in the medical journal Osteoporosis International.
First, it is critically important to know what not to do. Avoid those infamous stomach “crunches” and toe touches and any exercise or activity that involves twisting the spine or bending forward from the waist with straight legs.
Next, recall a mantra you may have heard often as a child: Stand up straight. Good posture — proper alignment of body parts when you stand, sit or walk — reduces stress on the spine. Lift your breastbone, and keep your head erect and shoulders back, all the while gently tightening abdominal muscles and maintaining a small hollow in your lower back.
More advice from the experts:
1. When sitting for long periods, place a rolled towel or small pillow at the small of your back. Walk with your chin in and head upright.2. Learn to bend over safely from the hips and knees, not the waist. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and keep your back straight. Do not twist; turn to face the object you wish to reach before you bend.
3. To reach your feet (for example, to tie your shoes), sit on a chair and cross one foot at a time over the opposite knee, or stand with one foot on a stool.
4. Lifting an object can be problematic. If possible, first get down on one knee and lift the object to your waist; then stand up, holding it close to your body.
5. When carrying packages, use two bags with handles packed as evenly as possible, and carry one bag in each hand. If you have recently had a vertebral fracture, limit the weight you carry to 10 pounds.
Another option: Use a backpack, preferably one with straps that snap in front at the chest and waist. In fact, according to Dr. Kristine Ensrud of the University of Minnesota, one of the recommended back-strengthening exercises involves wearing a small backpacklike device containing a two-kilogram weight. My Comment: Here's another bone-building option to consider: the weighted vest.
6. Avoid overreaching. Don’t reach for objects on a shelf higher than one you can touch with both hands together.
7. Protect your back when you cough or sneeze. Tighten your abdominal muscles, and place one hand on your back or press your back into a chair or wall for support. Alternatively, gently bend your knees and place one hand on them.JANE E. BRODY
Want to learn more about safe ways to strengthen your core & your back? Read: "Is Your Ab Workout Hurting Your Back? Dr. Stuart McGill Advises to Trade in the Crunch for the Bird Dog, Side Bridge, & Stir the Pot"
If you don't see the video, click here.
If Sandy Palais Can Do It, So Can We!
I feel strong," says Palais, who was able to compete in the local senior Olympics
Do yourself a favor & read or listen to Sandy's story on the NPR website. At age 63, after receiving a diagnosis of osteoporosis, she took to the weight room, and ten years later, at 73, she's a Senior Olympic Weight Lifting champion with strong muscles, and bones to match! Sandy can squat with 135 pounds, bench press with 80 pounds, & deadlift 165 pounds. She's my inspiration to kick my weight-training up a notch!
Here's an excerpt:
NPR's PATTI NEIGHMOND: Sandy Palais is 73 years old. She works out five days a week, two hours each day. Today she's lifting weights at the gym at Arizona State University in Tempe.
Ms. PALAIS: I use the leg extension. I use the leg curls. I'll do back extensions, triceps extensions.
NPR's PATTI NEIGHMOND: Palais starting lifting weights about 10 years ago, shortly after she was diagnosed with osteoporosis. She was losing bone mass. What she didn't realize - she was losing muscle mass as well. And weight training builds both. So Palais went to the gym three days a week. It didn't cost much and student trainers were there to help. Within a year she was able to compete in the local Senior Olympics.
Dr. MARK PETERSON (Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Michigan): Sandy is like a hero to me. I think she is an outstanding role model.
NPR's PATTI NEIGHMOND: Mark Peterson first met Sandy Palais when he was a student. Now Peterson's a researcher at the University of Michigan and he's just completed a study looking at this very question: Can older people reverse the process of muscle loss?
Dr. PETERSON: What we found was, boy, people beyond the age of 50 make dramatic increases, much more dramatic increases than I think was historically thought.
NPR's PATTI NEIGHMOND: After five months of lifting weights two to three times a week, both men and women increased their muscle mass on average by nearly two and a half pounds. Not only did that reverse age-related muscle loss, it actually built lots of new muscle.
Muscle strength and balance prevent falls, which is one of the most common reasons seniors end up in hospitals. But if you're like most people over 50, you don't get much exercise, so Peterson says start slowly with weightlifting. For example, just get in and out of a chair.
So there you have it!
Any weight-training advice you can share?
Has anyone personally seen bone density gains from weight-training, rather than drugs?