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Keeping fit means stronger bones

After you turn 35, your body cant rebuild bones the way it used to, but you can slow down the process that drains calcium -- and strength -- from them.

Many experts think weight-bearing exercises are a good way to do this. These exercises, which make you work against gravity, keep your bones from deteriorating, as proven by the space program. Scientists say astronauts lose bone mass in space, an environment without gravity, up to 10 times faster than on Earth.

Weight-bearing exercises include strength training, stair-climbing, hiking, jogging, walking, and dancing. Activities like swimming and cycling arc great for your heart and lungs, but they don't slow down bone loss.

In one study, postmenopausal women who didn't normally exercise began strength-training exercises twice a week. After one year, their bone density had improved to the point they were able to function as if they were 15 to 20 years younger.

Dr. Ann Hunt, Associate Professor of Nursing at Purdue University, warns, "Weight-bearing exercises, like walking, are good, but they don't benefit your arms. And there are lots of osteoporotic fractures of the arms - wrists, especially. So you need to do some weight-hearing on your arms. Now that doesn't mean bench-pressing 300 pounds. It means doing some exercises with cans of tomatoes or even sacks of rice." You need a good, well-rounded workout, but you don't have to go to a gym in order to get it.

Another great exercise program for seniors is called Pilates - a combination of yoga and strength training.

It gives you the benefits of stretching and improved balance, along with better muscle tone and increased strength. Look for a Pilates class in your community.

And don't forget one of the most natural forms of exercise - sex. Dr. Joel D. Block, who wrote Secrets of Better Sex, says that having regular sex causes your body to produce more estrogen than normal. This is a plus for your bones and also your heart, especially as you move into menopause.

Talk with your doctor before starting an exercise program if you are over 40, already have osteoporosis, or have any other health problems. And use common sense. Start slowly, increase your activity gradually, and never try to exercise through any pain or discomfort.

 
 

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