Researchers have long known that as women age their risk of developing osteoporosis -- a loss of bone mass that can lead to brittle or broken bones -- increases dramatically. And for years women were told that the condition could be prevented if they started drinking milk and lifting weights while still in their teens. Now a new report suggests it's never too late to begin working out, and that seniors who do can significantly reduce their risk of broken bones and fractures.
Osteoporosis, a thinning of the bones that often accompanies aging, especially in women, causes some 1.5 million fractures every year. Such injuries can lead to long-term disability or even death, and are responsible for more than $10 billion annually in medical costs.
Previous studies had suggested that exercise can be beneficial for even the oldest men and women. But the latest research is the first to show that weight-bearing exercises can affect many different risk factors for osteoporosis simultaneously. Women who participated in the program, which was conducted by researchers at Tufts University in Boston, not only showed increased bone density and muscle strength but also scored higher on balance tests, a crucial factor in the kinds of falls that often result in hip and spinal fractures.