Osteoporosis, or the loss of bone density, continues to be the leading cause of bone fractures and disability about the elderly. Although the medical community will all agree that hormone replacement and calcium supplements are primary ways to prevent or reverse the loss of bone density, excercise has also proven to be an effective treatment.
The type of exercise seems to be in question. It is genearlly common knowledge that weight-bearing exercises with resistive training will help to improve bone density, and thus help to reduce the chances of bone fractures. It is unfortunate that many physicians think of the water as being a non-weight bearing and a non-resistive exercise. It is true that when we lap swim we are not bearing weight on our skeletal system. There are many different ways to exercise in the water other than lap swimming!
A study done in Israel is the most conclusive on this subject. A group of women who participated in land exercises was compared with a group doing water exercises. The final outcome proved that "using the water's resistance is an effeictive way to build bone mass and may be useful in the treatment of bone loss" (Lindle, 1994).
Pushing and pulling limbs through the water provides the kind of resistance needed to build bone density. The beneficial resistance or stress can also occur from the impact of running on land or in t he water, from the impact of hitting a ball with a racquet, or from pulling equipment through the water. The force of the muscle contractions and effects on the bone are the same in both activities.
Bones subjected to continuous and excessive loads will grow thicker and stronger as long as there is adequate nutrition, particualarly calcium and phosphorus, and adequate periods of rest. Bones that are subjected to responsible exercise become stronger and denser.
Finally, Many people with Osteoporosis are not able to participate in traditional exercise programs such as walking, aerobics, tennis, ect. Coming into the water provides them with the support they need to perform the movements so beneficial to the muscles and bones. IN the water, tolerance of exercise is greatly increased, thus participants exercise more frequenctly. IN the water, people can exercise and move in ways not possible on land.
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