On Wednesday, I attended a moderated discussion at McGill with Dr. Lora Giangregorio, an associate professor in the department of Kinesiology, at the University of Waterloo. She was being honoured for her research into the use of exercise, in the management of osteoporosis.

“Bone disease affects more Canadians than heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined.”

I was shocked to learn this fact.

The problem is that we often do not know that we have an issue with our bones, until we fall and break something.

I have been in the fitness industry, working out regularly and then teaching, for over 25 years.  I have osteopenia and only found this out because my doctor ordered a bone mineral density test, as a result of my gluten intolerance. I found this out at 48 years old.

My father who died in his 80’s had osteoporosis but did not know it. We found out because of the autopsy.

So just because you do not fit the standard “old decrepit person” profile, does not mean you get a free pass and can ignore your bones. You may have brittle bones because of diet, heredity or disease or menopause and not even know it.

The biggest lesson that I learned from this discussion, is that as a fitness professional who deals with the older adult ( 50 years old + ), I have to design group fitness programs that do not put my clients at risk.

Dr. Giangregorio suggests weight training exercise two times per week, so for example Tuesday and Thursday. She suggests implementing a diverse program that includes balance training to help prevent falls. If you are not in a gym yet, get going. Your bones need it!

In my humble opinion, high impact exercise that includes repetitive, rapid, loaded twisting is not safe for this clientele because we simply do not know if their bones are in good enough shape to handle it. So for example, doing fast paced cardio with weights in our hands, while lunging and twisting to the side, is better left to the younger population.

I am happy to say that I feel very confident having attended this discussion. I have always chosen to err on the side of caution with my students. While it is tempting to try some of the latest, high impact “fun” looking exercises with my clients, the last thing I ever want to do is hurt them.  We stick to the basics of improving our muscle strength, our balance and our cardio, not to mention our memories with line dancing! Lot and lots of laughter helps as well.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone.