Thoughts On Health… Excercise (dang!)

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Oh how I have fallen. I am completely out of my exercise routine… I manage to work in an at-home 20 minute Yoga DVD about twice a week and those 40 minutes, my friend, is the total sum of my exercising attempts lately.

At first I told myself it’s okay because I’m young and can get it all back. Hmmm. I think I still can but it’s going to be harder to re-capture my cardiovascular fitness now then it used to be, so instead of maintaining health I will have to re-build it. Bummer.


Then I told myself I am a very active parent, and that’s gotta count for something. And I think it does. I’m forever running (not walking) up and down stairs, taking my kids on hikes, walks, chasing after the dogs, soaking up this awesome weather, playing Just Dance on the Wii and all that stuff that I LOVE about being a Mommy.


But I can only pull that excuse for so long… because now the sad truth is that I only last about half as long as I used to be able to jumping with my kids on the trampoline, so I know that being *active* in daily life just isn’t the same thing as being in exercise-routine shape.


Enter a new study looking at the effects of routine exercise and fall risk in women ages 41 to 77 (published in Feb 2011 in Menopause.) The study was aiming to analyze if routine exercise improved gate stability in post-menopausal women, thereby decreasing falls and decreasing fracture risk.

A very important study, for exercising is one easy okay, NOT easy but simple and free thing you can do to reduce your bone fracture risk as you age. Non-toxic (unlike all the other osteoporosis meds being pushed across the country) and good for your body and soul, and every organ system in-between.

So that’s all good and great, but here is what *I* take from the study: it is really important to find an exercise routine NOW, and stick with it. Because if I think I’m going to all of a sudden start exercising to save my bones when I’m 48 or 58 or 68, but not right now when I’m 38, I’m dreaming.

This study looked at more then 120 women who stuck with an exercise program for one full year… then compared their gate to their baseline walking pattern and to control. The thought being that women who improve their plantar contact and pressure on the walking surface have a more stable walking pattern and decreased fall risk.

This turned out to be exactly right, as women who exercised (in this study that meant 3 1-hour sessions of exercise a week… a combo of step, weights and stretching) not only made longer contact with the ground but they made quicker initial contact with the ground and had a stronger push off.

In contrast to the exercise group, who actually had enhanced stability of their gate, the control group showed no improvement in gate and a decline in ground contact of the metatarsals (foot bones.)

Okay… here is the thing. In addition to showing those improvements, the exercise group ALSO decreased their body mass (read: lost weight,) maintained skeletal mass (i.e., maintained bone mass) AND maintained their basal metabolic rate.

Meaning their metabolism didn’t slow down AT ALL as they aged, and that, my friends, is the real meat of the study for me.

The control group had no change in body mass (did not lose weight) but DID lose skeletal mass (read: lost measurable bone mass within just one year!) and decreased their basal metabolic weight.

Meaning the non-exercisers had metabolism rates that s-l-o-w-e-d d–o–w–n….. within just one year, and will continue to slow every single year for the rest of their lives.

Starting around 40, women begin to significantly lose muscular function, and have already begun to lose bone density. So anything that we can do early on in life to preserve muscular strength, preserve bone mass, and decrease our fall risk is well worth it.

Exercise does all of that and MORE, keeping our metabolism rockin’ it and keeping our energy high. So to that I say “hell yes!”

So why do I so often say “hell no” to exercise?

Because it just isn’t part of my routine. But it should be. It used to be. And so I declare, it is! It *is* part of my routine, starting today. It’s one of the best things I can do to keep my body feeling it’s best.

So who is with me? Finding an exercise routine that we enjoy early on, and can stick with through the years, is one of the most simple, easy not easy but worthwhile, inexpensive things we could ever gift to ourselves.

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I’ll be back on Wednesday and Friday with my two favorite Thoughts On Health posts from 2010, so stay tuned, they are good ones! xoxo