Several years ago, I took my mother for her bi-annual checkup, and her primary care provider asked her if she goes out for walks. My mother was in her late 80s, and she said that she used to go for long walks, but that she stopped. The doctor took his prescription pad and wrote on it to go for daily walks of at least 30 minutes.
I was amazed that he actually did that, and even more when he explained to her the importance of weight-bearing activities to enhance health, including bone health. Finally, a doctor who was up to date on the latest research about the most effective and safest intervention for improving health and preventing bone loss!
Today we'll look at a scientific report published in 2017 that compiled data from previous studies to provide health practitioners with research-backed recommendations for prescribing exercise to prevent and reverse osteoporosis. You'll also find out the unfortunate truth about why most doctors are not aware of the latest scientific discoveries.
Exercise As A Prescription For Osteoporosis
The professional association of physical medicine practitioners Exercise and Sports Science Australia published a report that included the results of numerous scientific studies on exercise and bone health.
This allowed them to construct specific guidelines for safe and effective exercises for bone health that doctors can prescribe to patients. Their core message was that exercise is a powerful and highly effective strategy for preventing and reversing osteoporosis, when properly prescribed. They recommended lifelong exercise that includes regular, brief, weight-bearing, high-impact exercise, and high intensity progressive resistance training (PRT).
Their research also recommends doing a variety of activities to continually expose the skeleton to new patterns of loading, and they also recommend balance training.
For individuals with more advanced bone loss, termed high-risk in this study, the authors recommend a fall prevention program that focuses on balance, mobility training, and high-intensity progressive resistance training. They noted that high load PRT and moderate impact loading have been found to be safe and well-tolerated in older adults– and effective at improving bone mass and reducing kyphosis (Dowager's Hump).
The baseline exercise prescription the study recommended was a minimum of two weekly sessions of PRT, four to seven weekly sessions of impact activities, and balance training.
Additionally, the study notes the importance of adequate intake of calcium and Vitamin D, both of which are Foundation Supplements.
A review study examined previous studies on the effects of exercise on osteoporosis and fracture risk. Based on their findings they determined that exercise is a highly effective and safe intervention for bone loss and should be prescribed by health care professionals. The advised lifelong exercise includes regular, brief, weight-bearing, high-impact exercise, and high-intensity progressive resistance training (PRT).
Why Aren't Doctors Up To Date?
These recommendations are no surprise to Savers, but they probably didn't get them from their doctor. Instead of recommending the most effective and safest form of intervention, many doctors prescribe a dangerous and ineffective quick-fix: osteoporosis drugs.
These drugs have life-altering side effects such as atypical fractures and osteonecrosis of the jaw, to mention a few. Why aren't doctors prescribing exercise instead?
One report, published in the Australasian Medical Journal points to the disconnect between practicing medical doctors and the field of medical research. Practicing doctors are rarely involved with studies and don't necessarily keep up with the large number of new published research that’s published each year.2
Instead, they receive information and promotional material from Big Pharma companies. In fact, pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars every year promoting their products. The result is that doctors who are not abreast of the latest science get convinced to prescribe drugs that may be ineffective or worse, actively harmful.
Consider this passage from the report cited above:
“Worryingly, there is sometimes a relative lack of urgency when a drug is clearly shown to be harming patients. For example 19.8 million patients were prescribed five questionable drugs before action was taken to remove them from the market. This included painkillers, anti-histamines, drugs used to treat obesity and anti-hypertensive drugs. Not one of these were lifesaving nor, in many cases, were they the only drugs available for that indication. In another case physicians prescribed a new painkiller to 2.5 million patients with acute pain, even though many well-tested similar drugs were available and the drug was known to elevate liver enzymes.”2
This story may sound familiar to Savers, because it echoes what is still happening with bisphosphonates. These osteoporosis drugs can have life-alterating awful side effects while failing to address the root of the problem. They remain widely prescribed, In spite of research showing how these drugs can actually wind up causing the fractures they're supposed to prevent.
Doctors are often unaware of the latest medical research. One report suggested this may be because doctors are rarely involved in research. Instead, they can become uninformed and susceptible to advertising and influence from Big Pharma. That dynamic leads to overprescription of drugs that turn out to be ineffective and harmful– just like what happens with bisphosphonates, a class of popular osteoporosis drugs.
What This Means To You
You might not have a doctor who is as informed as my mother's primary care provider was. But fortunately, you have the intelligence and drive to learn what the latest scientific research has taught us about how to prevent and reverse osteoporosis.
The Save Institute is working to make the benefits of those discoveries accessible to you. That's why we created SaveTrainer. Our online video workout platform has professionally led exercise videos that target all of the areas outlined in the study today– including weight-bearing exercise, balance-building workouts, and more.
Use the scientifically-proven power of exercise to build stronger bones, better balance, and longer healthier life.