Thursday, December 8

Your bones need heavy loads to be healthy

Think about your ancestors from a couple of centuries ago. Unless they belonged to the upper bourgeoisie or aristocracy, it is very likely that they lived in the countryside and were physically active, having to carry buckets of water, chop wood or carry sacks of potatoes, both men and women.

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All of these activities have one thing in common: they put many pounds of pressure on your bones. Using an ax to cut a trunk in two supposes an impact of about 600 Kg that is distributed by the joints of the arms and the back. In Africa it is common to see women carrying more than half of their body weight on their heads. Closer in our memory, the traditional tin milk jugs for the distribution of milk could contain between 40 and 50 liters.

All of these people carry those loads on a daily basis. When is the last time you moved a similar weight? Our sedentary life has a very high price, and part of it is paid by our bones.

No load no bone

You are literally not the same person you were yesterday. Our bones are constantly wearing down and rebuilding, as is the case with all body tissues at different rates.

It is known with certainty that the signal that regulates the reconstruction of the bones is the mechanical load. Without loads, the bones atrophy and become increasingly porous and less dense, which is known as osteoporosis.

This is what happens with astronauts. In weightless conditions, muscles atrophy and suffer a dizzying loss of muscle mass. The first astronauts on the International Space Station can lose up to 1% of their bone mass per month, which is called space travel osteopenia.

Today, astronauts do strength exercises daily and on a mandatory basis, using machines with springs that exert resistance even when there is no gravity, thus minimizing the pernicious effects of weightlessness.

It has also been found that lions and other felines in captivity in zoos they have weaker bones than their wild counterparts, mostly due to lack of physical activity.

Hormones, bones and weights

A part of osteoporosis can be attributed to hormonal changes associated with age. In women, after menopause, estrogen levels drop, the sex hormones that help maintain the balance between bone formation and bone breakdown. For this reason, osteoporosis has been considered a typically female disease. Men are also affected. Hormonal protection ends a little later than in the case of women, so the symptoms in men usually manifest after the age of 60.

The effects of the decrease in these hormones can be counteracted by exerciseAlthough not all exercises are created equal. In this matter, weights beat all others.

Loaded resistance exercises are those in which the feet and legs support the weight of the body and the weights being lifted or carried. In a review of studies it was found that strength exercises were much more effective against osteoporosis than any other type of physical activity.

Specifically, the exercises called high intensity with progressive resistance. That is, in which the loads are progressively increased until reaching efforts close to the maximum of each person.

High-impact weight-bearing exercises, such as running, jumping, dancing, weight-bearing classes, are also effective. aerobics and even jump on the site. All these impact exercises strengthen the muscles, ligaments and joints, which are subjected to loads greater than those they sustain every day.

People over the age of 60 can also benefit from regular weight-bearing exercise. This can include a brisk walk, gym class, or a game of tennis. In contrast, walking, swimming, and cycling are not weight-bearing exercises and do not have as many benefits for your bones.

Diet and vitamin D

The solution to prevent osteoporosis does not seem to be in calcium pills, which have been proven in some cases increase the risk of fractures in patients with the disease. Anyone with a balanced diet gets enough calcium and other minerals, especially from dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, and other foods like sardines and anchovies with their backbones and dairy.

Another condition for the prevention of osteoporosis to work is a proper diet, specifically that it provides enough calcium, magnesium, and even more importantly, vitamin D, since this is the key for calcium to be fixed in the bones.

All of these nutrients are the foundation, the raw materials, just like vitamin D supplements, and they only help in the event that there is a deficiency. But they are not enough. Osteocytes and osteoblasts, the cells that regenerate bone need a signal to get to work, and that signal is the mechanical stress. How much weight have you carried today?

What is all this based on?