I am so excited to be presenting a series of articles on bone health. I sure do have a lot of ideas! I intend for these articles to be informative, entertaining, and frequently viewed from the perspective of an “old bag of bones” to whom I am related – my grandma, Kora.
At nearly 105 years of age, she has a lot to offer in terms of sage advice about health. No, she is not a doctor, but she did raise two of them! Close enough, right? Seriously, these articles will be tempered with just the right amount of fun, flair, and information that you can apply as it pertains to you. And if Kora happens to make you laugh along the way, I could not be happier. After all, laughter is the best medicine!
Now, as much as I hate to admit it, I am 45 years of age. The number bothers me more than anything else. Physically and emotionally, I feel as fit as a 25-year-old. I truly do. At the risk of sounding a bit pompous, I attribute those good feelings to the fact that I have been exercising virtually daily since age 12. I think I have missed a few days for various illnesses, like the stomach flu or something, and I know I took off three days for each of the three babies I had, and then I had foot and knee surgery (due to accidents, not age!) within the last few years, and I took off about two days for each of those events, too.
Other than that, I have not missed a day, and I usually work out at least two hours per day. That alone helps me emotionally and physically, but I have recently tuned into the fact that it has helped my bone health dramatically.
Many of my friends are what I would call “weekend exercisers.” They exercise when they feel they have time and when the urge strikes. Those who are in their 40s, and some even in their 30s, seem to issue regular complaints that their joints hurt or that their feet hurt, or that some bone in their body aches. I then think about myself in relation to their complaints. Truly, I have no physical complaints that constantly plague me. Short of genetics, there have to be other variables that come into play with that.
I look to my grandma, Kora, who has done her “exercises” for as long as I can remember. I still vividly recall being around the age of two or three, and she would have me hold onto the side of the swimming pool and count with me while she and I kicked our legs in harmonic rhythm together, up to 200 kicks or more per leg. Personally, I thought this was silly.
Turns out, she was onto something. Not only did she do hundreds of pool kicks daily, she also did a host of calisthenics each morning. Then she would engage in a daily walk. And she did this all without complaint, fatigue, or dread. She enjoyed it. She loved it. As recently as two years ago, she had signed up for an aerobics class at her church. She figures, if she is not dead yet, she might as well do something that will make her look good in the casket when that day finally arrives!
About ten years ago, Grandma did have a few minor bone-related issues. Her age-related osteoporosis was acting up, but only to a minimal degree. Prior to that, her chief complaint was about the excess tartar on her teeth. Both of her sons became prominent physicians, so she figured she would call upon them for some medical advice.
Her youngest, a specialist in infectious diseases, simply replied, “Mom, I deal with AIDS and hepatitis issues. My brother specializes in pulmonary diseases. We don’t dabble in bones. We can’t help you there.” He was joking, of course, but my grandma realized that, after consulting with her primary care physician for further medical advice, she knew the steps to take to care of her bones, and that included regular exercise and a proper diet, especially one that incorporated the recommended daily amounts of calcium.
I came across an article recently on the internet that noted how those in their 40s begin to show signs of wear and tear on their meniscus, that crescent-shaped cartilage pad between the two joints formed by the femur (the thigh bone) and the tibia (the shin bone). According to MedicineNet.com, each pad acts as a smooth surface for the joint to move on. That pad can be easily injured while bearing weight.
Something as simple as turning to hit a tennis ball in such a way that your foot stays still but your upper leg moves can create a tear in the meniscus. Depending upon the size and type of tear, a doctor will either recommend certain physical rehabilitation activities or perhaps have the patient undergo arthroscopic surgery.
I later learned that one of the best exercises one could engage in to strengthen the meniscus, the tibia, and the femur is to start spinning! Yes! Get out that old dusty bike, clean it up, and pedal away. Cycling is a great way to strengthen those leg joints, cartilage, and bones and keep them working for you well into your advanced years! The stress on your joints that typically are associated with an activity like running, are drastically reduced. My bicycle and I are now becoming fast friends!
Grandma was on the leading edge with spinning, too. She had this old bicycle, basket included, that was reminiscent of that old lady in the Wizard of Oz. In fact, whenever my brother and I saw her on her bike, we used to hum that familiar tune from that movie. It cracked us up every time. We were not laughing for long, however, as Grandma would have us get on our bikes and take at least a ten mile jaunt with her BEFORE breakfast. Back then, I whined. Today, I would eagerly say, “Can we go now?”
Grandma did take a ride on a bike of another sort just three weeks ago in North Carolina. She got on the back of a Harley motorcycle and went off for a ride with my cousin! She was smiling ear-to-ear. Why? She has been exercising her whole life and at her mature age, still had the ability to get on that motorcycle by herself. Not one bone creaked.
For once, she did not have to do the spinning. I think she deserved the break! More than anything, she is smiling because, at nearly 105, she is still here, active and on the move. The last time she was incapacitated was in the 1960s after her brush in a snow-skiing accident. She was up and moving the day after, cast and all. See what life has in store for you once you get moving? Make no bones about it….regular exercise is a true benefit for your bone health. If Grandma finds out you are still on the couch after reading this, she may have a bone to pick with you!
Stay tuned for Grandma and I…and a few leading health specialists…to help you “bone up” on your bone health issues.