Sunday, July 25, 2010

Weight-Bearing Exercise that Doesn't Wear You Out

Exercise makes bones and muscles stronger and prevents bone loss.  Exercise also helps us to stay active and mobile as we grow older.  Bone is living tissue that responds to exercise by becoming stronger, just as muscles do.  When you are inactive, your bones do not receive any messages that they need to stay strong and dense.  Particularly as we grow older, this contributes to lower bone mass and density.

If you are already diagnosed with osteoporosis (decreased bone mineral density, resulting in porous bones) or osteopenia (low bone mineral density, a precursor to osteoporosis), you may feel you face a classic Catch-22 position: You are advised to do weight-bearing impact exercises that force you to work against gravity and bear weight on your bones, joints, and muscles.  Such exercise is needed to stimulate cells that build bone but actually can result in joint destruction and bone fractures.

Weight-bearing exercise stimulates a mini electrical current in your skeleton that draws strengthening minerals right into the bone matrix.  A well-rounded yoga practice includes weight-bearing postures and takes your body through its full range of motion; lengthens your spine; opens your posture; and stretches and strengthens your muscles in a balanced way, which reduces wear and tear on your joints.

The challenge as we grow older is to exercise in a way that does not contribute to bone fractures or have a negative effect on your joints.  The usual forms of weight-bearing high-impact exercise, such as jogging and various other sports, are known to stimulate the cells that build bone.  Unfortunately, with the passage of time, such forms of movement often contribute to joint destruction that can result in hip and knee replacements.

Recent studies report that yoga improves the actual congruence of joints, undoing (reversing) the wear and tear that is responsible for osteoarthritis.  Nonimpact, nonweight-bearing exercise, such as swimming, won't wear out your joints, but it won't strengthen your bones either.  The good news is that a balanced yoga practice can give you all the positive benefits of weight-bearing exercise without negative wear and tear on the joints!

Source from The New Yoga for Healthy Aging by Suza Francina