Sedentary lifestyle leads to brittle bones

Most of us have seen the elderly in the family or neighbourhood suffering from debilitating bone fractures of the arm, leg or hip due to osteoporosis. However, in what is an alarming new trend, cases of such osteoporotic fractures are now being presented in relatively younger people, even those in their 30s.

Doctors say this is because of a lack of physical activity and a sedentary lifestyle that has reduced the average age of osteoporosis. It has been found that youngsters in their 30s who broke their bones during regular day-to-day activities, represented bones of a senior citizen. This is due to the fact that they lead a largely sedentary life for many years, with minimum walking either to an elevator or car and at home.

According to research the incidence of such osteoporotic fractures have increased in people under 50s as compared to 20 years back when most such cases were found in people above 60 years of age. During the ageing process, it is common for men and women to lose their bone density by 0.3 per cent to 0.5 per cent after the age of 35 years.

Nowadays, youngsters are getting affected by osteoporosis, which is a condition of extremely weak bones, resulting in a decrease in bone mass due to loss of bone mineral density. The condition is more often seen in women either due to their anatomy and other physiological factors, but due to changes in lifestyle, there is an increase in incidence of osteoporosis in the urban youth.

Is modern lifestyle the main culprit?
The primary cause of osteoporosis is calcium and Vitamin D deficiency. As modern lifestyle includes low intake of calcium, low sun exposure resulting in Vitamin D deficiency, lack of exercise and poor habits such as smoking, increases the risk of osteoporosis in youngsters. With technology making lives easy, rising affluence and increasing ownership of vehicles, habits like walking to the neighbourhood store everyday or cycling to work are no longer practiced.

Elevators have universally replaced stairs, common instruments like hand pumps that required hard work are no longer needed and the facility of home deliveries has done away with the need to carry groceries home every day. All these conditions have drastically reduced physical activity levels as compared to years back. And this is the major cause of the declining strength of the bones. Apart from eating healthy it is extremely important to exercise everyday to maintain bone health. Bones are living tissues which thrive on exercise and the loss of bone mineral density can be stopped by exercising. Doing exercises which involve lifting if weights have proven to be beneficial for bones. Things are still different in rural India where hard labour is still a part of daily life. So, both men and women in rural areas have better bone health as compared to those in urban areas.

Weight bearing exercises
Exercises that put stress on the bones like weight bearing ones, help build their strength. Any physical activity that forces us to work against gravity is known as a weight bearing activity. These exercises increases bone density and strength. They should be done depending on one’s capability and strength and by increasing intensity slowly, overtime. Some of the most common exercises include the following:

Lifting of weights helps build bone density, muscle and also improves bone health. However, only do heavy weight lifting if you are in good health and start with small weights and increase gradually.

One of the best ways to build bones is by trekking, mountaineering and hiking. This form of exercise is perfect for an adventure lover but everyone must give it a try. Begin by walking everyday at least for half an hour.

If you love fast moving exercise and dancing, then you should practice aerobics more often. Aerobics are fast, increase heart rate and are wonderful for building calories and improving bone health as well.

Going for a Jog or a run is an amazing exercise. It helps manage weight, improves heart health and also builds muscle and bones.

Take the Stairs
Skip the lift and take the stairs, next time. This builds stamina and strengthens the muscles and bones.

A brisk walk is perfect for those who cannot go to the gym or do aerobics. Walking everyday for at least 30 minutes is a great way of improving overall health. It is a low impact exercise and does not affect the bones negatively

Author: Dr. Rajeev K Sharma M.S. (Orth), M.CH. (Orth)
Chairman, Institute of Adult Reconstruction, Sports Injury & Joint Replacement, New Delhi

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