Last weekend I attended a 2-day Buff Bones® training here in Austin. Buff Bones® is a full body exercise system designed for bone and joint health. It’s medically endorsed and safe for people with osteoporosis. I’d like to share some interesting and important things I learned.
Our bones are continuously regenerating, which Is called bone remodeling. Certain cells tear down bone and other cells lay down new bone. We essentially have a completely new skeleton every 7-10 years! We reach our peak bone mass by about age 30, after which we start to lose more bone that we are forming. Menopause can lead to even more bone loss due to reduced estrogen. Excessive bone loss is known as osteoporosis, which makes bone weaker and prone to fracture. The most common site for bone fractures due to osteoporosis are the hip, wrist and spine.
Exercise is vital to maintain strong bones because bone strengthens in response to impact as well as changes in force, direction and speed. To optimally strengthen bone, your exercise program should include weight bearing, resistance and impact. It’s also important to incorporate balance training to prevent falls that could lead to a fracture. Traditional Pilates workouts include these elements, although some adjustments are recommended if you have osteoporosis.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation and American Bone Health recommend that people with osteoporosis avoid thoracic spinal flexion, and especially loaded thoracic spinal flexion. What exactly does that mean? They recommend that when you’re doing exercises lying on your back, like the Hundred, Ab Series, etc., you leave your head on the ground. Caution should also be taken with any exercise where you round or roll your spine like Rollup, Spine Stretch Forward, Saw, or Teaser. Loaded thoracic spinal flexion happens in any exercise where your hips are above your head, like Short Spine Massage, Overhead, Long Spine Massage, Advanced Corkscrew on the Reformer, Rollover, Rolling like a Ball, Open Leg Rocker, Advanced Corkscrew, Boomerang, Seal on the Mat, and Tower on the Tower.
These recommendations are the reason we highly suggest private training for clients with osteoporosis. Doing these exercises doesn’t mean you will fracture your spine, but it does mean that you should be cautious and listen to your body. As we always say, if it hurts, don’t do it! If you have any questions about whether or not an exercise is safe for you, ask your trainer. They can help you with osteoporosis safe versions of an exercise or suggest an alternate exercise.
If you have to avoid flexing your spine in the thoracic area (the mid-back), what CAN you do? Lots of things! Especially if the exercises focus on strengthening your hips and wrists and working on balance. Shoulder bridge is excellent for strengthening your entire posterior chain. Spinal extension – think Swan, Swimming, Single & Double Leg Kick – strengthens your back and the muscles that support your thoracic spine. Side Kick Series is awesome! Those exercises strengthen your entire hip complex while also working your abs and balance. Quadruped (on all fours) strengthens your wrists while working your abs & hips. Jumpboard adds impact which helps build bone. And squats are something that everyone should be doing in every workout.
The Buff Bones® mat workout includes a simple squat series that takes less than 5 minutes and anyone can do it. Some people say that can’t do squats because it hurts their knees, however these squats are safe for almost anyone. During the training, we had the opportunity to practice teach each other, which meant I did the series 9 times! It was at least 150 squats (although it felt like about 500!) I won’t lie, I was s.o.r.e! Which just means I need to be doing m.o.r.e of those.
Most doctors don’t even test bone density until age 60 or 65. I’ve never had mine tested, however my mom has osteoporosis so I might be at risk. Certain medications and medical conditions can also cause bone loss that you might not even be aware of. My main takeaway is that everyone should be doing regular exercise to improve their bone health, because even in the best of cases, your bones will become less dense as you age. Yet another reason to be consistent with your Pilates practice!
We’ll be offering a Buff Bones® seminar soon which will include more information and a sample workout. Stay tuned and go do a set of squats!