Trainers advise seniors to get fit

Published 12:44 pm Wednesday, March 8, 2006

By By MARY-ALLISON LANCASTER – Managing editor
It's the age of the baby boomer, and as more women and men reach old age they are beginning to realize that their bones aren't as strong as they once were.
Experts say that, until recently no one gave much thought of the topic of bone health. However, as more and more research is conducted and brought to attention of the average consumer, doctors, even trainers, are making attempts to get the word out that it is vital to take preventative measures to ensure bone health for a longer, healthier life.
Osteoporosis is a disease that affects both men and women. Its most common misconception is that it's an older person's disease. However, studies have shown that those suffering from osteoporosis are much more likely than others to break bones following minor bumps and falls.
Janet Peterman is a personal trainer at the Brewton Area YMCA. She said that on an average, she trains 60 percent women and 40 percent men, which she finds interesting. The average age of the women she trains is 50.
While Peterman said osteoporosis is not her forte, she did say that she knows that strength training is a great way to thwart the debilitating disease.
Peterman said she is not aware of any of her clients suffering from osteoporosis, nor have any of them mentioned the disease. She said that one woman she trains solely works out because she has rheumatoid arthritis and another trains because she has diabetes. Viola Sutton has been working with Peterman for quite some time. She has felt that strength training has eased her arthritis.
Peterman said that while she doesn't train anyone who has osteoporosis, that doesn't mean there aren't people in town who may suffer from the disease.
Many health experts offer advice on how to ensure bone health. Some say eat a diet high in calcium and Vitamin D. An inactive individual is at risk for osteoporosis because exercise is important to maintain healthy bones.
Peterman, who recently spoke at the annual FitFest program held at D.W. McMillan Hospital this week, spoke about strength training for seniors. She said that most often than not she notices that more seniors skip strength training.
But, she pointed out that while eating a healthy diet is a plus, adding the combination of strength training will help reduce symptoms of osteoporosis, depression, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and sleep disorders.
Physicians often look for warning signs of osteoporosis, and advise men and women to not wait until the age of 65 to have a screening conducted. During a screening, physicians look for low-trauma bone fractures and back pain from undetected vertebral fractures. A bone-density test with a device is performed regularly.
A screening can be done in the privacy of a doctor's office. The physician uses a non-invasive instrument that sends a sound wave across the bones in a wrist or finger. The speed of the ultrasound wave indicates bone strength and osteoporosis status. No radiation is present, and the procedure is painless.
Statistics reveal that in the U.S. today, 8 million women and 2 million men already have the disease, and 18 million more are at risk with low bone mass.
So many people tend to spend their working hours hunched over a desk. What Peterman said she does is concentrate on the curvature of the back during strength training in an attempt to bring the spine back to its normal position.
There are three roman chairs available at the YMCA. The chair is backless, which forces individuals to focus on form, Peterman said. She advises men and women to spend some time in the chair.
Combining a healthy diet and strength training is just a small price to pay for keeping healthy bones for the rest of your life.

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