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Seniors, improve your bone strength with HydrOS exercise program

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
HydrOS aquatic exercise program

Bone loss is a common problem for men and women as they age. At the time of menopause, women experience an accelerated rate of bone loss that continues for about five to 10 years. This does not occur in women who undergo hormone replacement therapy (HRT). For both sexes, bone loss can reach a weakened state, termed osteoporosis, in which bone fractures are likely. For individuals with osteoporosis, the most common fracture locations are the spine (particularly in the upper back), hips (neck of the upper leg bone), and wrists. Exercise can promote bone strength; however, it is associated with a risk of falling. In addition, many seniors have mobility issues. Exercising in water is a good choice for many seniors; however, older programs lacked the intensity to strengthen bones. Now, the HydrOS exercise program is available, which according to a new study, can improve bone strength and reduce fracture risk. The findings were published in the October issue of the journal Menopause by researchers affiliated with the Federal University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil.

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The HydrOS exercise program is a supervised interval training program that incorporates bursts of intense activity that lasts 10 to 30 seconds, and forces exercisers to workout at 90% of their maximum heart rate. The study group comprised 108 women, aged 58.8 ± 6.4 years. All women had a sedentary lifestyle. The women were randomly assigned into the Aquatic Exercise Group (64 women) who underwent 24 weeks of the HydrOS exercise program, and a Control Group (44 women). All subjects had their fasting morning blood sample collected for the measurement of factors related to bone strength: parathyroid hormone (iPTH), procollagen type 1 amino-terminal propeptide (P1NP) and carboxy-terminal cross-linking telopeptide of type I collagen (CTx). Their bone mass was measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA scan) before and after the intervention. Calcium and Vitamin D can benefit bone strength; thus, the women in both groups received a daily supplementation of 500 mg of elementary calcium and 1,000 IU of Vitamin D.

The investigators found that at the conclusion of the 24 week study period, an increase in the bone formation marker (P1NP) occurred in the Aquatic Exercise Group (15.8% increase), but not in the Control Group. Both groups experienced significant enhancements in the bone resorption marker (CTx). (Bone is constantly being absorbed and reformed in the body; thus, the higher the resorption, the weaker the bones.) However, the increase was lower in the Aquatic Exercise Group (15% vs. 29%). The femoral trochanter bone mineral density (a measurement of bone strength of the upper thigh bone) decreased by 1.2% in the Control Group; however, no change occurred in the Aquatic Exercise Group.

The researchers concluded that the HydrOS exercise program was efficient for reducing bone resorption rate and promoting bone formation. They also noted that even though elderly adults lose muscular capabilities used for quick movements that stimulate bone health, the HydrOS classes improved strength in muscles and joints used for slower day-to-day movements; thus, helping participants lead a normal life with less pain. Furthermore, the researchers noted that their result were impressive because 25% of the women in the study had osteoporosis, and 50% were at the beginning stages of the bone disease.